Scientists and biotechnology companies are developing what could become the next powerful weapon in the war on pests – one that harnesses a Nobel Prize-winning discovery to kill insects and pathogens by disabling their genes.
By Andrew Pollack
By zeroing in on a genetic sequence unique to one species, the technique has the potential to kill a pest without harming beneficial insects. That would be a big advance over chemical
“If you use a neuro-poison, it kills everything,” said Subba Reddy Palli, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky who is researching the technology, which is called RNA interference, or RNAI. “But this one is very target-specific.”
But some specialists fear that releasing gene-silencing agents into the fields could harm beneficial insects, especially among organisms that have a common genetic makeup, and possibly even human health.
“To attempt to use this technology at this current stage of understanding would be more naive than our use of DDT in the 1950s,” the National Honey Bee Advisory Board said in comments submitted to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides.
example, drugs that could turn off essential genes in pathogens or tumors.
RNA corresponding to an essential gene of the pest.
common to various organisms, RNAi pesticides might hurt unintended insects.
in assessments for traditional chemical pesticides.” (The New York Times International Weekly, March 24, 2014 issue)