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Staple crops, like wheat, maize, potatoes and rice are by far the biggest chunk of that in terms of calories produced.
Why is food 'production' important?
Understanding food production is crucial for human welfare and the environment because:
Food security and cost of living
Adequate food production provides food security by ensuring people have access to sufficient, nutritious and affordable food to meet their dietary needs. This helps to alleviate hunger and malnutrition promoting human welfare and well-being.
Reducing impact on the environment
Food production relies heavily on natural resources such as land, water, and energy. We need to optimise food production, by improving agricultural practices, increasing crop yields, and minimizing post-harvest losses. That way we can spare as much land for nature as possible while ensuring adequate food production.
Improving public health
Diet is the key issue when it comes to our health. Understanding and improving foods in terms of nutritional quality, diversity and preservation can significantly improve public health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
What does 'CRISPR' have to do with any of this?
and what is CRISPR anyway?
CRISPR is a revolutionary gene-editing tool that allows us to precisely amend DNA sequences, the basic building instructions of bacteria, plants and humans.
It is derived from a natural defence mechanism found in bacteria, which enables them to guard against viral infections by targeting and cutting viral DNA.
With CRISPR and similar tools we can address several challenges
Climate change poses significant challenges to agriculture, with rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased occurrence of extreme weather events. By improving the ability of crops to withstand adverse conditions, such as heat, drought, or salinity, CRISPR can contribute to more resilient agricultural systems.
Minimizing Land Use
By using CRISPR to enhance crop traits such as disease resistance and productivity, farmers can achieve higher yields on the same amount of land. This increased efficiency in crop production means that less land is needed to meet food demands, allowing for the preservation or expansion of natural ecosystems.
CRISPR can enhance the nitrogen use efficiency of crops, reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing the reliance on inputs that generate emissions and pollution, as well as reducing food waste and spoilage by lowering susceptibility of crops to mold infestation, AND sparing more land for nature to draw down carbon, CRISPR contributes to mitigation and aids in the global effort to combat climate change.
By targeting specific genes responsible for the synthesis of essential nutrients, we can enhance the levels of vitamins minerals and other beneficial compounds, but also reduce carcinogens, mycotoxins and allergens in crops. This can improve the nutritional quality of the food we consume leading to better health outcomes for individuals.