Social responsibility and gene-editing in wheat research
Michael Reinsborough (University of West of England)
Paper short abstract:
Using tools such as CRISPR/Cas9, BrisSynBio researchers are working to modify human red blood cells, mitochondria and the recombination machinery of crop plants. This presentation reports on-going ethnography in the Bristol Cereal Genomics Lab.
Paper long abstract:
Wheat genotyping at the Bristol Cereal Genomics Laboratory (BCGL) supports breeders developing elite wheat varieties. Mapping Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) within wheat allows breeders to select individual plants when cross breeding. In confluence with recent BBSRC funding emphasis on synthetic biology (via BrisSynBio) the BCGL will use CRISPR/deadCas9 to explore SPO11 gene driven recombination events in hexaploidal wheat during meiosis, potentially providing in the future the ability to augment the endogenous recombination system. Centromeric recombination events occur less frequently than telomeric recombination events making it very slow and expensive for breeders to match traits. This presentation will give an in-progress report of laboratory ethnography asking how CRISPR technologies influence/do not influence existing research in wheat genomics and seeking to contextualize BrisSynBio lab work within UK agriculture and the longer history of human wheat relations. Framed within the BrisSynBio responsible research and innovation (RRI) theme, the research will also ask to what extent are the laboratory research agenda and/or laboratory practices shaped by ethical concerns, public engagement, or policy debates surrounding the use of CRISPR tools in food crops such as wheat.
Recombining life: sociotechnical intersections in the making of genome editing