The Science Forum South Africa 2021 held in December featured a two-part session entitled “Promoting agricultural sustainability through biotechnology: genome editing and plant microbiomes”. Professor Dave Berger presented in the genome editing session, where he gave an overview of current research in the field in South Africa.  He started off with developments at FABI in fungal genome editing where the work of Dr Andi Wilson in Prof. Brenda Wingfield’s group is perhaps the first published CRISPR gene edit in the country.  Apart from an overview of genome editing initiatives around the country, the talk also included a brief scoping report of the local IP landscape of gene editing in agriculture.

South African research labs are currently in a capacity-building phase of implementing CRISPR-Cas9 related gene editing methods. Other speakers in the session, that was co-ordinated by Dr Manuela Campa (Stellenbosch University) and supported by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), were from Italy (tree gene editing), CSIR, CropLife, Kenya Biosafety Agency, and Biosafety South Africa.

A recording of the session is available as a YouTube link from the SFSA2021 website by clicking here. Prof. Berger’s overview of Agricultural genome editing in SA starts after 22min 19 secs.  The recent announcement by the SA Government that gene edited crops will be regulated as GMOs has implications for local innovators and will no doubt be discussed and debated in depth this year.

SFSA2021 recorded sessions can be viewed by clicking here