Disease can strike cops on a massive scale, seriously disrupting food supply. And when a population of 1.4bn relies on crop produce, consistency in harvest is vital. Using a natural bacterial immune system called CRISPR, China is modifying plant DNA in the hope of improving the texture, longevity, and taste of its crops, turning them resilient to any damage. But the efforts are pre-emptive, given limited natural resources, and there is a long way to go before modified crops are brought to market – China first has to clarify its regulatory stance.
Why does this matter? CRISPR is essentially a GMO tool, which is generally frowned upon by consumers. In China, however, it might be necessary to feed an ever-expanding population. Syngenta, the Swiss chemical company that was acquired by ChemChina in 2017 for $43bn has already assembled a large R&D team exploring CRISPR. A number of start-ups are also popping up. Investors should be wary, however, for CRISPR remains controversial, especially after recent medical scandals where Chinese doctors used it to genetically engineer babies.
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