Silencing Pests: Altered plants make RNA that keeps insects at bay

12:16pm, November 7, 2007

Two teams of researchers have modified plants to produce genetic material that disables critical genes in insects that eat the plants. The technique could provide a new strategy for agricultural-pest control.

Looking for a new way to protect corn plants, James Roberts with Monsanto in Chesterfield, Mo., and his colleagues turned to a mechanism known as RNA interference, in which segments of the genetic molecule RNA block the translation of information from a target gene (SN: 7/2/05, p. 7). The researchers found RNA sequences that would target critical genes in the western corn rootworm and two other related pests, and then modified corn so that it would generate those sequences.

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