...[A] team at the University of Queensland in Australia has managed to achieve long-lasting gene silencing inside plant cells. They have protected tobacco plants from a virus for 20 days with a single application of a gene-silencing spray.

“We believe it offers a step change in environmentally sustainable crop protection,” says team member Neena Mitter.

. . . .

One challenge with the spray approach is that the effects on plants last only a few days because unprotected RNAs soon break down. ...

...Mitter’s team ... achieved [20 days of protection] by combining the RNAs with clay nanoparticles developed by her colleague Gordon Xu.

. . . .

The biggest obstacle is cost ... A few years ago, it would have cost over $100,000 to make the gram or so needed to treat a small field. But this is changing fast. [John Killmer of biotech startup Apse says the company] aims to mass-produce RNAs for under $2 per gram.

. . . .

The technology looks set to divide those who oppose genetically modified crops, with at least a few in the anti-GM camp welcoming the new approach. “I have had organic growers call me up and tell me to hurry up with the technology,” says Killmer.

. . . .

Journal reference: Nature PlantsDOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.207

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Crop spray gives plants GMO benefits without altering genes