In Brief
A Swedish university has served the first-ever CRISPR-Cas9 modified vegetables. This may be a diet fit for the future.

CRISPyR Plants?

What is a meal of the future? Pasta — tagliatelle, to be exact.

But it wasn’t the pasta that made this meal futuristic. It was the vegetable.

Although the vegetable in question (a cabbage) didn’t look much different than any ordinary cabbage, it came from Umeå University’s garden of modified plants. Modified how? Using a breakthrough gene editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9.  CRISPR is short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” Currently the most precise method in genetic manipulation, CRISPR-Cas9 allows for the editing of an organism’s genome (or complete gene sequence) by cutting into segments of it for removal or replacement.

UC Berkeley, Mint research
UC Berkeley, Mint research

The tagliatelle with fried vegetables was served to a radio reporter from Radio Sweden, who was doing a feature on the modified plants. Stefan Jansson, a Plant Cell and Molecular Biology professor at Umeå, was the gracious host who prepared the CRISPR-Cas9 vegetables. This may be the first step to producing healthy plants for farmers and consumers all over the world.

GMOs?

vegetablesmo
Umeå University

Are these considered GMOs?

In 2015, the Swedish Board of Agriculture said they didn’t think so. American authorities agreed in 2016. Since nothing foreign was introduced into the gene sequence, these vegetables are not considered GMOs. This is precisely what the “gardeners” at Umeå did. No foreign gene was spliced into the plant’s original sequence.

So there’s really nothing to worry about.

What’s more, the CRISPR-Cas9 vegetables can be planted like ordinary plants. This summer was the first time such vegetables were planted outside a lab. And it works! The CRISPR-Cas9 vegetables can easily be cultivated and harvested, paving the way to healthier vegetables in the future.