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For a Drive on the Farm

Researchers hope to use gene-editing approaches to protect crops from pests, but they tell Harvest Public Media that they also have to convince the public of their benefits.

For instance, Harvest notes that the University of Illinois' Patrick Tranel is investigating whether gene drives could be used to combat weeds like waterhemp and Palmer amaranth that are increasingly resistant to herbicides. He has identified key genes that would have to be targeted, a first step of many, it says. Likewise, the University of California, San Diego's Omar Akbari is hoping to use a gene drive approach to control the invasive Drosophila suzukii.

But for these approaches to work, the researchers tell Harvest Public Media that they need the public to be aware of the benefits and costs of using gene drives in agriculture. "If you put something out where the public isn't comfortable with it, it doesn't matter what the science says," the University of Illinois' Stephen Moose tells it.