RNA-interference pesticides will need special safety testing

Jul 16, 2013

Standard toxicity testing is inadequate to assess the safety of a new technology with potential for creating pesticides and genetically modifying crops, according to a Forum article published in the August issue of BioScience. The authors of the article, Jonathan G. Lundgren and Jian J. Duan of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, argue that pesticides and insect-resistant crops based on RNA interference, now in exploratory development, may have to be tested under elaborate procedures that assess effects on animals' whole life cycles, rather than by methods that look for short-term toxicity.

RNA interference is a natural process that affects the level of activity of genes in animals and plants. Agricultural scientists have, however, successfully devised artificial "interfering RNAs" that in , slowing their growth or killing them. The hope is that interfering RNAs might be applied to crops, or that crops might be genetically engineered to make interfering RNAs harmful to their pests, thus increasing crop yields.

The safety concern, as with other types of genetic modification and with pesticides generally, is that the artificial interfering RNAs will also harm desirable insects or other animals. And the way interfering RNA works means that simply testing for lethality might not detect important damaging effects. For example, an interfering RNA might have the unintended effect of suppressing the action of a gene needed for reproduction in a beneficial species. Standard laboratory testing would detect no harm, but there could be in fields because of the effects on reproduction.

Lundgren and Duan suggest that researchers investigating the potential of interference RNA pesticides create types that are designed to be unlikely to affect non-target species. They also suggest a research program to evaluate how the chemicals move in real-life situations. If such steps are taken, Lundgren and Duan are optimistic that the "flexibility, adaptability, and demonstrated effectiveness" of RNA interference technology mean it will have "an important place in the future of pest management."

Explore further: Novel nanoparticle delivers powerful RNA interference drugs

More information: RNAi-based Insecticidal Crops: Potential Effects on Nontarget Species. Jonathan G. Lundgren and Jian J. Duan, BioScience, 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel nanoparticle delivers powerful RNA interference drugs

Jul 09, 2013

Silencing genes that have malfunctioned is an important approach for treating diseases such as cancer and heart disease. One effective approach is to deliver drugs made from small molecules of ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which ...

Enhancing RNA interference

Jun 24, 2013

Nanoparticles that deliver short strands of RNA offer a way to treat cancer and other diseases by shutting off malfunctioning genes. Although this approach has shown some promise, scientists are still not ...

Gene expression reveals how potatoes are cultivated

May 03, 2012

Organically grown potatoes have a higher gene expression of starch production than conventional ones. This statement is put forward by RIKILT, part of Wageningen UR, researcher Jeroen van Dijk, who can tell organically grown ...

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

Apr 17, 2014

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet Jul 16, 2013
It would also be useful to gain some sort of idea about how effective this technique will be over many years. Will pest species evolve resistance? How quickly? So in addition to gaining some knowledge about the cost (how hazardous), we also get a better idea about the overall benefit (or lack thereof).

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.