Crop Biotech Update

University of Arizona Scientist Develops Aflatoxin-free Corn Using RNA from Fungus

March 15, 2017

University of Arizona (UA) plant geneticist, Monica Schmidt, genetically engineered a variety of corn to turn off the ability of a plant fungus to make aflatoxin. Her findings are published in the open-access journal, Science Advances.

Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin produced by fungus Aspergillus. When aflatoxin is ingested by humans and animals, it can lead to hepatotoxicity, liver cancer, kwashiorkor, Reye's syndrome, and impaired growth.

Schmidt and colleagues embedded a snippet of ribonucleic acid (RNA) from Aspergillus into the corn plant. The host plant and fungus swap tiny pieces of genetic information during infection leading to the silencing or turning off of the ability of the fungus to produce aflatoxin. This technique is 100 percent effective as shown in the trials, producing aflatoxin-free corn kernels.

Read more from Science Advances and UANews.