Monsanto plans to debut a new pesticide spray that manipulates pests directly using a process called RNA interference (RNAi). Word is the spray will kill specific insects and weeds by putting the kibosh on the genes that are crucial to their survival.
“This is a technology that could allow the development of a whole new generation of agrichemicals,” says David Baulcombe of the University of Cambridge, as reported by New Scientist.
A study published in the journal Pest Management Science found that the spray could kill the Colorado potato beetle and protect the crop from pests for 28 days. Monsanto thinks the new line of pesticides could help combat the growing issue of pests and weeds becoming resistant to certain pesticides, and plans to bring a product to market by 2020.
According to Salon.com:
The idea that plants could be modified to themselves modify other organisms is perhaps one of the unsettling concepts driving the growing backlash against GM crops, particularly in Europe (Scotland recently announced a GM ban.) RNAi sprays theoretically avoid existing GM regulations by skipping the crops and modifying the pests directly.
And while Monsanto is jumping on the technology, not everyone is so sure that genetically modified insects are such a good idea.
“The public is not accepting GMOs, and this could be more alarming. People are going to say you are taking the RNA and spraying this in the open,” says Kassim Al-Khatib, a plant physiologist at the University of California, Davis, as reported by Salon.com. “The acceptance of biotech has to be there before you can deliver another approach. This isn’t a technology for tomorrow. It’s for the day after tomorrow.”
Public sentiment has shifted against the technology and toward GMO labeling—with 92 percent of Americans now supporting mandatory GMO labeling laws. But even so, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would overturn state GMO labeling laws in Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont, as well as 135 state and local GMO labeling initiatives. The bill still has to pass the Senate.
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Corn crop image via Shuttershock