Biotech Updates

Agri-biotech Researchers Develop RNA Sprays to Modify Crops

September 2, 2015

Researchers at Monsanto are developing RNA sprays for plants to temporarily turn off the activity of certain genes. For instance, an RNA spray can be tailored to address insect infestation or a new type of virus. The gene silencing ability of the spray will only take effect for a few days or weeks, enough to kill the pests or pathogens. Another RNA spray can also be developed to address drought resistance, which will be applied only during times of water shortage. The development of RNA sprays takes shorter time than developing GM crops.

World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Robert Fraley, also Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer, designed the RNA spray three years ago. Fraley believes that within a few years they will "open up a whole new way to use biotechnology" that "doesn't have the same stigma, the same intensive regulatory studies and cost that we would normally associate with GMOs." He thinks that RNA sprays are incredible and breathtaking and that of all the platforms we are working on, this is the one that reminds me the most of the early days of biotech.

Aside from Monsanto, other agri-biotech companies such as Bayer and Syngenta are also studying RNA sprays. It is perceived that this technology will be more acceptable for the public because no GMO is developed in the process.

For more details, read the original article from MIT Technology Review.