Using RNA interference (RNAi), a biological process which disrupts the production of an organism’s proteins, Syngenta is looking at a biocontrol method which kills target species but has no impact on any other organism.
Using Colorado potato beetle as an example pest, Mike Bean, global head, product technology and engineering at Syngenta, told an audience at its R&D Showcase: “Even the difference between insects, but not proteins can be combatted, so one species can be targeted without an impact on the other. We have designed a sequence that kills a potato beetle, but when we take a really closely related species like the mustard beetle, there’s absolutely no effect.
“This can be flipped around to kill mustard beetle, and not kill Colorado potato beetle. You’re generating a product for this particular beetle, because not all beetles are eating your plant.
“Taking selectivity a step further, we tested against a whole range of pests, beneficials and non-target species, and the only thing this will kill is the Colorado potato beetle.”
The method, which does not use gene editing or modifying techniques is probably seven-10 years away from the market, he added.