Gene editing tools are now unlocking new strategies to improve natural and agricultural carbon sinks, limit emissions from agriculture and other major sectors contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and revolutionize biofuels. These are discussed by David Hart, Robert Rozansky, and Val Giddings in their article published in the Genetic Literacy Project.
One of the solutions presented is the Trillion Trees initiative, which recognized the plant's unique ability to use photosynthesis to collect carbon, though the process is not very efficient. Thus, experts are using gene-editing tools to improve it. When these new techniques turn out successful, it is projected to lead to 50% productivity gains in major crops, while slashing emissions significantly and boosting farmers' incomes.
Most of the agricultural GHG emissions are accounted to decomposition and transport of wasted food. Gene-edited soybean oil with longer shelf life and non-browning tomatoes are now commercially available, contributing to waste reduction. Gene editing has the potential to enable low-carbon transport by optimizing microbes that can efficiently process cellulose.
About 6% of global agricultural GHG emissions are contributed by cattle, particularly due to the methane in their burps. Some cattle have been found to emit lower amounts of methane due to specific microbial populations found in their digestive tracts. With gene editing, this trait can be transferred to herds and contribute to reducing emissions.
(Source: Crop Biotech Update, International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.