Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Silent Spring 2.0? - Gene-Silencing Pesticides Could Devastate Non-Target Species

New RNAi 'gene silencing' pesticides are being developed by Agro-biotec companies to kill insects by “switching off” their essential survival genes. [1] This use of genome technology has the potential to devastate non-target species, such as honeybees and butterflies, and to compromise environmental and human health. [2][3]

The pesticides are the next battlefield for food safety and environmental sustainability. There is clear scientific evidence that they present a new level of complexity and risk.

Gene-Silencing pesticides could modify other species, and concerns of independent scientists must be taken seriously. Regulators must urgently ensure these novel gene-silencing pesticides are regulated for safety.

Agro-biotech industry executives hope RNAi pesticides can remedy the total failure of genetically modified (GM) plants to control weeds and pests. GM plants are designed to tolerate pesticide applications throughout the growing season, without killing the crop. The overuse of these pesticides has caused a resistance in weeds that in the US has devastated farmer’s crops. Tolerance to the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry endotoxin in GM plants has also developed in the insects the GM plants were designed to kill. This has not, however, stopped the march to find new ways to kill pests and weeds that overcome this tolerance and resistance. [4]

The development of new gene silencing pesticides comes at the same time as the push by commercial interests for deregulation of products from Gene Editing. Both are threats to the integrity of the food system and the environment.

“The current situation in New Zealand and overseas is that RNAi pesticides are not being regulated as Genetically Engineered organisms. They need to be," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

"Far from deregulation of Gene Editing, the regulations need to be strengthened and expanded to include gene silencing pesticides."

The Royal Society has supported relaxing precautionary GE laws and reviewing regulations. This is unreasonable, if new regulations ignore the risks from gene editing and gene silencing pesticides.

It is vital that the scientific community resist the temptation to ignore safety in the haste to commercialise products and profit from intellectual property.

The current status is one of incomplete and inadequate knowledge of unintended genetic changes by novel and experimental gene technologies.

There is potential for a new Silent Spring if we do not regulate these powerful gene technologies.

References:

[1] https://www.ecowatch.com/pesticides-modify-insect-genes-2650992311.html

[2] Mogren and Lundgren (2017), In silico identification of off-target pesticidal dsRNA binding in honey bees (Apis mellifera). PeerJ 5:e4131; DOI 10.7717/peerj.4131

[3] Romeis et al.(2020) Assessing the Risks of Topically Applied dsRNA-Based Products to Non-target Arthropods https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7289159/

[4] Schütte, G., Eckerstorfer, M., Rastelli, V. et al. Herbicide resistance and biodiversity: agronomic and environmental aspects of genetically modified herbicide-resistant plants. Environ Sci Eur 29, 5 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-016-0100-y
 

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 


Federated Farmers: NAIT Levy Increases Must Achieve Accurate, User-friendly System
Nobody welcomes extra costs but if OSPRI is to catch-up on under investment in the NAIT platform and deliver on its workability and farmer support, levy increases are probably necessary, Federated Farmers says... More>>



Westpac: More Job Opportunities, But Growth In Workers’ Earnings Remains Subdued

The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index rose 1.2 points in the December quarter, to a level of 106.9. This was the sixth straight rise in the index since the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Michael Gordon, Acting Chief Economist for Westpac, noted that the rise in the index has largely been driven by perceptions... More>>




Statistics: Card Spending Continues To Increase As COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

The busy Christmas period combined with easing COVID-19 restrictions helped to increase card spending in December 2021, Stats NZ said today... More>>

TradeMe: Job Market Ends 2021 On A High With Record Number Of Vacancies
The New Zealand job market finished 2021 on a high note, with the ball still firmly in the job hunters’ court, according to the analysis of 69,600 vacancies listed on Trade Me Jobs for the quarter ending 31 December (Q4)... More>>


Insurance Council of New Zealand: September South Island Windstorm Cost $36.5 M Raises 2021 Extreme Weather Claims Total To $321.6 M

Gale force winds and storms between 9 and 13 September 2021 resulted in insurers supporting communities to the tune of $36.5 m. This is a significant rise, of $16.7 m, on preliminary figures for the event and lifts the end of year total for all extreme weather events in 2021 to $321.6 m... More>>


Statistics: Building Consents Hit New Highs In November
There were a record 48,522 new homes consented in the year ended November 2021, Stats NZ said today. This was up 26 percent compared with the year ended November 2020... More>>