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Pest-Resistant Crops

March 5, 2015

A new advance in modifying plants to kill specific insect pests.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A new approach to protecting crops. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Colorado potato beetle is what’s known as a “super pest.” It can strip a field clear of potato or tomato plants and is resistant to most pesticides. In the journal Science, Ralph Bock and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany describe a new way to stop the insect by engineering plants that produce genetic material called double strand RNA in their chloroplasts. It can be fine-tuned to disrupt a single vital gene in one species of insect, killing it.

RALPH BOCK (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology):

Any essential gene in the insect could be targeted, so this should prevent the development of resistances in the insect against the technology.

HIRSHON:

He says the same technique could be used on other varieties of insect, potentially eliminating the need for pesticides. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.