Crop varieties created by gene editing could benefit farmers in developing countries by providing bigger yields with better nutrition and greater tolerance to stress. But the public’s suspicion and fear impede the application of plant biotechnology in regions where it would be most useful. International outreach efforts are gearing up to increase public understanding of the scientific principles behind the technology. This will help governments to make informed decisions about gene-edited crops.
For example, secondary-school programmes run by universities in Malaysia and Ghana are educating the farmers, researchers and leaders of the future. Uganda’s Biosciences Information Centre targets smallholders. And in the United States, Iowa State University’s Plant Breeding Education in Africa Programme provides free e-learning courses to universities in sub-Saharan Africa on the application of biotechnology and genomics in plant breeding.
To increase this type of outreach, governments and development organizations need to invest in universities and secondary-school teachers, and provide them with the necessary resources.
Nature 563, 626 (2018)