DuPont Pioneer has announced waxy corn hybrids as its first commercial agricultural product developed through the application of CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding technology. This next generation of elite waxy corn hybrids is expected to be available to U.S. growers within five years, pending field trials and regulatory reviews.
"We’re applying our 90 years of knowledge of corn biology to develop the next generation of high-quality waxy corn hybrids for the benefit of the entire value chain from growers to processors and end users," said Neal Gutterson, vice president, research and development for DuPont Pioneer. "Starting with an identity-preserved product as our initial CRISPR-Cas offering allows us to lay a solid foundation for success of future larger volume products from this plant breeding innovation."
Pioneer is the leading supplier of waxy corn hybrids globally. In the United States, about a half-million acres of waxy corn are grown each year; however, they traditionally yield less than non-waxy corn hybrids. Waxy corn produces a high amylopectin starch content, which is milled for a number of everyday consumer food and non-food uses including processed foods, adhesives and high-gloss paper. Waxy corn is typically grown on contract through a closed-loop production system commonly referred to as "identity-preserved."
"The next generation of waxy hybrids developed with CRISPR-Cas will represent a step-change in how efficiently we bring elite genetic platforms of high-yielding waxy corn to our customers," Gutterson said.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently (USDA) recently published its response to Pioneer’s "Regulated Article Letter of Inquiry" stating that it does not consider next-generation waxy corn developed with CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding technology as regulated by USDA Biotechnology Regulatory Services.
"DuPont Pioneer believes that CRISPR-Cas as an advanced plant breeding tool holds great promise for maintaining the world’s ability to produce an abundant and healthy food supply. The USDA’s confirmation is an important first step toward clarifying the U.S. regulatory landscape and the development of seed products with CRISPR-Cas technology," said Gutterson. "We continue to consult with global regulatory bodies and government agencies in order to understand the potential regulations around the world."
Pioneer is establishing a CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding platform to develop seed products for greater environmental resiliency with characteristics like disease resistance and drought tolerance, in addition to advancing the development of improved hybrid systems. The technology has applicability for all Pioneer crops of interest.
"This is just the beginning: We believe the true value of this important innovation in plant breeding will be achieved through active engagement with customers, academia, governments, NGOs and public research institutes to develop new solutions to the toughest agricultural challenges," added Gutterson. "Pioneer has a long history of collaboration and broadly advancing science and is open to entering further collaborations which would contribute to developing CRISPR-Cas technology across all crops and geographies for the greater good."
Pioneer previously announced strategic agreements for research collaborations and intellectual property (IP) licenses with Vilnius University and with Caribou Biosciences. These are combined with DuPont’s own IP, technology capabilities, infrastructure and scientific expertise that are being applied in order to advance CRISPR-Cas.