What Won’t They Think Of Next? Monsanto Scientists Find A Way To Alter Insects Rna By Spraying Plants

Monsanto Using RNA Spray To Alter The Genetic Makeup Of Insects, Seeks To Get Plants To Do The Same On Their Own.

File under: Jesus Christ, here they go again.

The evil geniuses at Monsanto have come up with yet another novel way to disrupt life as it has existed on this pale blue ball for billions of years, this time not by creating a laboratory-birthed crop seed, but by actually altering the genetic makeup of pest insects through a spray applied to crops.

What’s more, they see the next step as developing a spray that will alter the genetic makeup of the plants from the outside in, rather than having to go through all the trouble of altering genetic material in the lab.

Their foe this time around is the Colorado potato beetle, a hungry little guy that can eat 10 square centimeters of leaf a day, stripping a plant bare if left to its own devices. But armed with a technology created in 2006 called RNA interference, Monsanto’s scientists can spray down the plants with specially designed RNA that takes the bugs out for good.

This RNA interference can temporarily shut down the activity of any gene. In the case of the potato beetle, it shuts down a gene that the insect requires to live.

Among the questions that haven’t been asked are: what effects might this RNA spray have on other insects? And, what effects might it have on human RNA?

For their part, Monsanto has already tried to pre-empt anticipated regulatory interference with their plans. They sent a letter to regulators addressing RNA-interference spray that included the phrase, “…humans have been eating RNA as long as we have been eating.”

Well that’s reassuring.

Again, this is old hat for companies like Monsanto. While they have gotten the costs down of treating plants with RNA-interference spray, they have set their sights on the next level. Monsanto, along with Bayer and Syngenta are now developing RNA-interference sprays that can alter the RNA of the plant itself.

Think of it as a terrifying way of cutting out the middleman: rather than go through time-consuming, costly burden of developing a new strain of crop seed, companies could instead build a perfect spray that would shut down any inconvenient genetic traits of an existing plant. Imagine a spray that would make tomatoes taste sweeter, or make wheat drought-resistant.

And then there’s the next-next level stuff, the truly scary ways these guys are thinking: what if you could design a spray that would alter the RNA of the plant in such a way that it would, itself, attack the insect’s RNA.

And as mentioned above, the tremendously clever folks at the biotech firms are already thinking ahead to potential objections. They are eyeballing a line of argument that says that this new process might be able to sidestep all that pesky regulation and testing the government insists on for their genetically modified crops.

What won’t they think of next, indeed? As always with these clowns the question remains, just because we can do something, does that mean we should?

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/540136/the-next-great-gmo-debate/

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