Next Green Revolution: Gene-silencing technology opens door to safer pesticides, more GMO crops

This article first appeared in Genetic Literacy Project, Aug. 7, 2020, and was excerpted from a Forbes article contributed by Michael Helmstetter, Ph.D.

In the 1940s, modern chemistry delivered new classes of man-made chemical pesticides that still are widely used today. These synthetic chemical pesticides were important enabling tools for the first “Green Revolution” that …. significantly contributed to saving billions of people from starvation. They continue to be important in maintaining crop productivity in modern high-efficiency agriculture systems, but there are downsides to heavy reliance on chemical pesticides.

One is that insects and other pests evolve resistance to commonly used pesticides. This complicates pest management strategies for farmers and can result in lower crop yields and higher operating expenses.

In response, the farming industry is entering a “New Green Revolution” that draws on a system of innovations to enable efficient, effective, and profitable farming practices while minimizing negative environmental and human health consequences. A key component toward that end is the development of new pest control solutions. A new class of pesticides, RNA interference (RNAi) pesticides are poised to become one such important tool.

Courtesy: CropLife, from Genetic Literacy Project

RNAi is a natural cellular process in fungi, plants, animals, and humans that has the function of disrupting or “silencing” the production of a specific gene product, such as a protein, to maintain normal growth and function….RNAi pesticides disrupt a targeted step in the process in which genetic information stored in the organism’s DNA is translated to make a protein.

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