Plant Cell Editor Zach Lippman and his work are featured in this National Geographic article, “Why Gene Editing Is the Next Food Revolution”
Tucked into a suburban Long Island neighborhood, a 12-acre plot may be growing the future.
Under a blistering July sun, Zachary Lippman bends over a row of foot-high plum tomato plants to reveal budding yellow flowers that will each produce a tomato and ripen over the summer. Out here, on the grounds of a former dairy farm, it has all the appearance of age-old tradition.
But inside a nearby lab, Lippman advanced the selective breeding process with a little nip and tuck of the plant’s own DNA, and now the “edited” plant is about to bear fruit in the field.
“There’s a long way to go, but what we have able to do in the last four or five years is unbelievable,” says Lippman, a professor of genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “It’s science fiction.”
He created the plants using gene editing, a technology—based on a natural process—that allows researchers to cut out certain bits of DNA in order to control traits. The cell’s genetic structure then repairs itself automatically, minus the targeted gene. His tomatoes are now programmed to produce double the number of branches and, as a result, twice the tomatoes.