Nov. 4, 2007
Scientists at Monsanto Company working in collaboration with Devgen NV, have identified an innovative and precise approach to protect crops against insects, which models a novel application of a Nobel Prize winning discovery. The technology is expected to provide farmers with a new in-the-seed option to protect crop yields and present another tool to support agricultures mission of meeting the worlds growing food, feed and fuel demands.
The results of the companies research were published in the November edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. The published scientific paper is a result of both individual work at Monsanto and Devgen as well as a collaborative research and development effort between Monsanto and Devgen.
The enabling technology, called RNA interference or RNAi, is a biological mechanism found in nature as a way to regulate gene expression. Monsanto identified novel applications of RNAi, enabling plants to be better protected against insect pests that feed on crops and impact yield.
"RNA interference is an incredibly promising method for crop improvement overall," said Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer. "Because of its specificity, this exciting technology can help us in areas of plant science that until now have simply not been possible."
"This technology has the ability to effectively control very specific plant pests," said Thierry Bogaert, CEO of Devgen. "This is a breakthrough in crop protection."
The research is expected to allow scientists to harness the cells natural ability to regulate protein production and apply it to produce insect protection for the plant. Monsanto scientists are working on incorporating this promising application of RNAi into one of the companys future insect-protected corn projects.
"Future products in our research-and-development pipeline such as those with corn rootworm protection could use RNAi as an important complimentary technology to Bt by allowing two different ways to control corn rootworm," said Fraley. "Offering farmers yet another way to protect corn against insects allows them the expanded ability to produce higher yielding crops that can support our worlds growing food, fuel, and feed needs."