Monsanto Wants to Use Gene Silencing Weapons Against Insects

#Future

Fri, Jan 31st, 2014 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

Using RNA interference, scientists and biotechnology companies are "developing what could become the next powerful weapon in the war on pests," an RNA interference system that would kill insects by disabling their genes. It sounds like this should be filed under "probably not a good idea":

“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. “But this one is very target-specific.”

But some specialists fear that releasing gene-silencing agents into fields could harm beneficial insects, especially among organisms that have a common genetic makeup, and possibly even human health. The controversy echoes the larger debate over genetic modification of crops that has been raging for years. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, will hold a meeting of scientific advisers on Tuesday to discuss the potential risks of RNA interference.

“To attempt to use this technology at this current stage of understanding would be more na?ve than our use of DDT in the 1950s,” the National Honey Bee Advisory Board said in comments submitted to the E.P.A. before the meeting, at the agency’s conference center in Arlington, Va.

RNA interference is of interest to beekeepers because one possible use, under development by Monsanto, is to kill a mite that is believed to be at least partly responsible for the mass die-offs of honeybees in recent years.

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