The Significance of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Significance of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Significance of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Charpentier & Doudna’s science refutes eNGO propaganda

The year is coming to an end, and 2020 has popped a balloon filled with myths, untruths and lies deliberately spread by eNGOs on gene editing. This fall the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the discovery of the gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas9, popping the negative balloon full of mistrust for such technology. This gene editing advancement, co-discovered by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, is a transformative innovation that is demonstrating the staggering potential for improving global food security and human health. Early field trials of crop varieties developed by gene editing are reporting significant yield increases (such as 20% in rice), and we expect CRISPR/Cas9 to continue these advancements. In terms of improving human health, virtually all of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines in development are utilizing gene editing technology.

When it comes to distinguished science, there is perhaps no more credible organization in the world than the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prizes are granted for scientific innovations in chemistry, medicine and physics since 1901 (there are also now prized for literature, peace and economics). This pre-eminent organization is world-renowned for recognizing contributions that will have significant impacts and benefits on society, many of which are commercialized as safe products and processes. Many of the technologies that have received a Nobel Prize have provided benefits to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of citizens globally. Examples include Robert Koch for his research on tuberculosis in 1905, Max von Laue for discovering x-rays in 1914, Max Theiler for his discoveries in how to treat yellow fever in 1951 and Joseph E. Murray and E. Donnall Thomas for their research on organ transplants in 1990. Through the annual awarding of these prizes, public recognition and trust is widespread.

Building trust in CRISPR/Cas9
Genetically modified vs. gene editing
Source Wells Fargo

With such a globally respected institution, the Royal Swedish Academy for Sciences, awarding the discoverers of the gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas9, there is hope that further trust can be gained for this science. Awarding Charpentier and Doudna for their breakthrough innovation is hopefully enough to discredit those campaigning to have the technology heavily regulated (eNGOs in particular), banned or deemed to be the equivalent of GMOs. In a single moment on October 7, 2020, the Royal Swedish Academy delivered a global blow to the propaganda dissemination campaigns of the world’s most vocal anti-biotech activist organizations.

Environmental activist organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Gene Watch (UK) have been lobbying the European Commission since 2015, to regulate gene editing as equivalent to GMOs. These eNGOs believe this will scare the European public into rejecting gene edited products. Activist groups like this deliberately mislead the public with their disinformation campaigns in an effort to demonize gene editing technologies. Gene editing is similar to previous plant breeding technologies, however, it does so now by making more precise changes to the genes within a plant’s genome. This is what conventional plant breeding has been doing for hundreds of years, but doing so over long periods and with less accuracy. Gene mutation is a natural phenomenon in plants, as a number of genes will mutate from one generation to the next. Gene editing technologies are able to replicate what nature already does. The results so far have been higher yielding and more nutritious crop varieties. GMOs require the insertion of genes that are foreign to the plant, whereas gene editing simply makes changes to the plant’s existing genes. eNGOs deliberately prey on the public’s lack of knowledge about plant breeding to intentionally deceive them about the safety of gene editing.

With environmental activist organizations investing time and money over the past 5 years to frighten the public about the safety and benefits of gene editing technologies like CRISPR/Cas9, to have it now awarded the Nobel Prize is a huge blow to their efforts. In my opinion, their campaigns have now been rendered completely unbelievable in the public’s eye. Awarding the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to CRISPR/Cas9 is like a double win as the developers of the technology have been recognized for their efforts and those that deny the safety and benefits which can come from such technologies now must also deny the world leaders and voices of science.

3 Comments

  1. Graham Scoles

    Stuart, while I have no question that Crispr will be of benefit to plant breeding, citing a 20% yield in rice as an example should not be done without more scrutiny as such a large increase in an already highly bred crop would never be found in well-executed field trials.

    1. Stuart Smyth

      I agree that large yields that are identified from in vitro experiments are lower when lines enter field trials. The objective of including these 2 examples was to provide insights as to the potential for gene editing. It would be interesting to get better data as to the relationship between yield increase estimates from in vitro or greenhouses compared to field trials.

  2. Pingback: Goodbye 2020, we are happy to see you go – Agriculture

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