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National Science Foundation Grant Would Allow Cornell to Harness Genome Editing Techniques To Improve Rice Crop, Which is a Staple That Helps Feed Billions of People Worldwide

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $5,499,997 in federal funding for Cornell University to use genome editing techniques that will allow it to study and thereby improve crop sustainability. Specifically, this funding will be allocated over four years through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and allow researchers to determine the positive and negative DNA strands of rice – which is a staple crop that feeds half the world’s people – in order to improve its sustainability.

“Through this NSF grant, our world-renowned researchers at Cornell University will use cutting-edge DNA technology to study and improve our output of rice by making it more resistant to diseases and harmful substances. This will ensure that our farmers can produce and sell more rice to meet domestic and global demand,” said Senator Schumer.

“New York is the epicenter of research and development and this NSF grant will help Cornell  University study and cultivate rice plants that could be more resistant to diseases and pesticides,” said Senator Gillibrandmember of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This NSF grant will help Cornell continue its groundbreaking research and help our farmers grow more crops to help meet growing demand.”

Cornell University’s NSF grant would be used to study genome editing, which is the process of dissecting, removing and replacing DNA in a living cell. The goal of this project is to improve the rice crop, which is a staple crop that feeds billions of people around the world. This funding would be spread out over four years and allow researchers to alter the traits of various crops, including rice, to create a more sustainable product that would be resistant to diseases and acidic soils. The NSF grant would also be used to develop educational materials for middle and high school students, as well as undergraduates, and train scientists on the process of genome editing.  

Schumer and Gillibrand said that creating crops that could withstand potentially harmful diseases, substances and climates is advantageous because of the high global demand for rice and cereal crops. Schumer and Gillibrand said that rice, for example, is an essential part of nearly half the world’s daily food consumption. With the global population expected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2050, it is necessary to increase production of these crops. Schumer and Gillibrand said that through genome editing, scientists could create crops that could withstand diseases and meet the growing global demand for the product.