New Pesticides Target Specific Insect Genes
Cultivated crops are a never-ending gustatory delight for millions of insects. Losses due to insect pests range from about 5% to 25%, depending on the specific crop. With global warming contributing to a dire agricultural future for most of the world’s people, it should come as good news that scientists are developing pesticides that use an insect’s genes against it. As always, though, there is that question of how tampering with the genes of one creature affects every other living thing on the planet.
The new pesticides use a process called gene silencing that prevents the expression of targeted genes. In the case of troublesome crop-destroying insects, those genes may control anything from gut function to cell metabolism. The biological processes of the insect are interrupted thereby either killing the insect or preventing reproduction.
Scientists working on this new pesticide believe that the gene silencing procedure is species-specific and offer solid research to back up this claim. To date, there is no conclusive proof that this new gene-dabbling science will not prove eventually harmful to humans and other living things. However, if it does prove safe for all except the insect, it could revolutionize how pesticides are used around the world.