4. What are the potential economic benefits of this for NZ Inc?
There are many. We will be able to develop better plant varieties much faster than using traditional breeding methods. Those varieties could be more nutritious fruit (e.g. apples and kiwifruit with more antioxidants in them that are better for your health) or perhaps plants that are resistant to certain pests (such as myrtle rust, which is a big threat to our manuka honey industry). We can use gene editing to develop plant varieties that are better able to cope with the impact of climate change – better able to tolerate hotter average temperatures or lower rainfall, for instance.
Plus we can use gene editing to solve some really big NZ problems, such as possum control (to protect our precious native birds). NZ has spent 30-odd years and millions of dollars on research to develop bio-control methods to eradicate possums, without success. At present, 1080 poison is the best solution we’ve got. But gene editing could change all that.