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An Idaho-based company that produces potatoes and other crops for 40 countries signed an intellectual property licensing agreement with a division of DowDuPont and the creators of the CRISP-Cas9 gene editing tool for agricultural use of the technology, they announced Monday.

The J.R. Simplot Company reached the agreement with the Corteva Agriscience division of DowDuPont, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“These pioneering tools may enable growers to achieve higher yields on less land resulting in fewer pesticides, water and labor needs while tending the quality of a consumer’s favorite foods,” Susan Collinge, a vice president at Simplot, said.

The company points out that about a third of the fresh potatoes, worth $1.7 billion, are lost every year because of poor storage or shelf life.

Gene editing could reduce bruising and browning of the crops, thereby also reducing some of the 3.6 billion pounds of annual potato waste.

Already the company has used other genetic-engineering techniques to produce reduced bruising and black spots, more protection from late-blight pathogens, and also to reduce asparagine, a natural amino acid.

Collinge told the Associated Press that the new CRISPR capacity wouldn’t result in new potatoes for at least five years.

The company also produces avocados and strawberries, among other fresh and frozen products.

The Broad Institute found the licensing by Simplot would advance several of their business and scientific goals at once.

“Our goal is to maximize the scientific impact of CRISPR-Cas9 for improving agriculture, and our joint licensing agreement offers the opportunity to provide much broader access to help researchers reduce food waste, limit pesticides, and improve drought resistance, while promoting safe and ethical uses of groundbreaking technologies,” Issi Rozen, the Institute’s chief business officer, said.

A Simplot spokesman told Laboratory Equipment that the cost of the licensing rights was confidential.

The use of genetic engineering of plants and animals has continued to proceed slowly. In 2015, the US FDA approved a GMO salmon, making it the first genetically-altered animal to be ruled fit for human consumption.

In 2016, Florida voters approved the use of genetically-modified mosquitoes to beat back the spread of the Zika virus.

And just last year, some Japanese scientists reported a breakthrough to produce interferon beta in the whites of chicken eggs, though their use beyond research purposes is still years away.

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