But their most important use may be in the developing world, where numerous plants that people rely on to avoid starvation are threatened by the impacts of climate change, including more pests and a lack of water. Farmers of the cacao plant - responsible for the oh-so-addicting chocolate that we all know and love - are warning that higher temperatures and the dryer climates that come with them are having a devastating effect on their crops, and scientists now forecast that cacao harvests could be completely wiped out within just a few decades if nothing is done.
Crispr-Cas9 is a tool for making precise edits in DNA, discovered in bacteria. By 2050, rising temperatures will push today's chocolate-growing regions more than 1,000 feet uphill into mountainous terrain - much of which is now preserved for wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Mars pledged $1 billion to an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, and part of that is going to a lab at UC Berkeley's biosciences building.
"There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively", Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer, told Business Insider. The other option is to start growing plants that thrive in the changing environment.
Berkeley's gene-editing technology, called CRISPR, has been in the works for a while, though when it gets attention, it's nearly always for the potential to eliminate genetic diseases or (sort of on the extreme end of this) build "designer babies".
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One such undertaking intends to ensure cassava - a key product that keeps a huge number of individuals from starving every year - from environmental change by tweaking its DNA to create to a lesser extent an unsafe poison that it makes in more sultry temperatures.
"These changes in climatic suitability are predicted to take place over a time period of nearly 40 years, so they will mostly impact the next rather than the current generation of cocoa trees and farmers", Peter Läderach and his co-authors said in a 2013 study.
Since the 1990s, more than a billion people from China, Indonesia, India, Brazil and the former Soviet Union have entered the market for cocoa.
Despite increased demand, supply has not been covered and cocoa stocks are believed to decline.
Doug Hawkins, of Hardman Agribusiness, says part of the problem is most cocoa is produced by poor families who can not afford fertilisers and pesticides. The trees need humid rainforest conditions and rising temperatures are sucking away the moisture, especially in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.