Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of promising new findings for the GMO-concerned:
A novel approach to pesticide-free, non-GMO food?
by Catherine Elton | Oct 21, 2016
Genetically modifying food crops to be resistant to pests is a promising approach to reducing agriculture’s dependence on pesticides. That’s what motivated a group of German scientists a few years back to develop a barley that was modified to produce RNA that makes it resistant to a common and devastating fungus. But some people, including many who are concerned about pesticide use, aren’t comfortable consuming GMO food. In 38 countries, the growth of GMO crops has been banned.
This conundrum motivated the group to find a third way—a way to harness their pesticide-eliminating genetic technology without creating a GMO plant. And it appears they just may have succeeded. They have discovered that by simply spraying the RNA onto barley leaves–rather than modifying the barley to produce it— they can generate resistance to the fungus…
…Not only could this approach make agriculture more sustainable, Kogel says, but scientists can produce these RNAs for the sprays in a question of weeks, whereas engineering a plant that is genetically modified to produce that RNA could take years…
…While that seems to indicate this approach would be safe for use on food crops, it could still take a decade of continued science and overcoming regulatory hurdles before this technology is commercially available. But, if it works, it would open up an entirely new alternative to both pesticides and GMO food.
Source: Koch, A. et al, An RNAi-Based Control of Fusarium graminearum Infections Through Spraying of Long dsRNAs Involves a Plant Passage and Is Controlled by the Fungal Silencing Machinery. PLOS Pathogens (2016)
Read the whole summary here.