Scientists and biotechnology companies are developing what could become the next powerful weapon in the war on pests -- one that harnesses a Nobel Prize-winning discovery to kill insects and pathogens by disabling their genes.
By zeroing in on a genetic sequence unique to one species, the technique has the potential to kill a pest without harming beneficial insects. That would be a big advance over chemical pesticides.
"If you use a neuro-poison, it kills everything," said
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.
"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
RNA interference is of interest to beekeepers because one possible use, under development by Montsanto, is to kill a mite that is believed to be at least partly responsible for the mass die-offs of honeybees in recent years.
Some bee specialists submitted comments saying they would welcome attempts to use RNAi to save honeybees. Groups representing corn, soybean and cotton farmers also support the technology.
"Commercial RNAi technology brings U.S. agriculture into an entirely new generation of tools holding great promise," the
Some scientists are calling for caution, however, In a paper published last year, two entomologists at the
In a paper prepared for Tuesday's meeting,
Most Popular Stories
- 5 Notable Hispanic Technology Executives
- Top Hispanic Tech Companies Push for the Top
- Tesla's Alt-Energy Future Aims for Massive Lithium-Ion Battery Production
- Rand Paul Tops Presidential Straw Poll at Conservative PAC Conference
- China Urges Malaysia Flight Emergency Response
- New Chat App, Yik Yak, Causes Problems for Students
- Russia, Crimea Discuss Referendum
- Gas Prices May Jump from Calif. Emissions Law
- Visa, MasterCard Team Up to Focus on Payment Security
- Obama Meets with Ukraine Prime Minister Wednesday