Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Develop Whitefly Resistant Plants

May 18, 2012

Tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is one of the most damaging pests globally, and thus a major threat to food security. Developing resistance to whiteflies in crops is the goal of John Innes Centre (JIC) scientists who won the Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Ian Bedford of the JIC Insectary, together with scientists from other institutions, will work on the project titled "Generating Whitefly-Resistant Plants" with the goal of developing new techniques of protecting important crops from insects and associated plant diseases.

Bedford and team will use RNAi technology to develop genetically modified plants that produces molecules that will block whitefly genes that are necessary for their survival, reproduction, and ability to acquire and transmit pathogens. Once successful, the team will use the technique to produce whitefly-resistant cassava, and other staple and subsistence crops planted in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

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