RNA spray is touted as an alternative to GMOs.

  • The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops and the use of GM ingredients in foods continue to be sources of worldwide controversy.  In a recent development, Scotland has announced its intent to ban GM crop growth in its territory.  And debates continue to be waged over the future of mandatory GM labeling in the United States.
  • As an alternative to genetic modification, biotechnology companies are developing “RNA spray” to improve the yield of cultivated crops.  The RNA spray is applied directly to conventional crops; when destructive pests feed on the plants, the spray shuts down a gene in the insects that is vital to their survival.  Reportedly, RNA spray also may be used to convey advantageous traits to the plants themselves, such as providing temporary drought resistance to crops during harsh harvest conditions.  RNA sprays only inhibit genes for a few days or weeks at a time, so they will not produce permanent effects on the crops to which they are applied.
  • Although no evidence indicates that RNA sprays will produce harmful effects, this new technology may require the resolution of novel issues from a pesticide regulatory perspective and is likely to be met with opposition from consumer safety groups.  It remains to be seen whether this “GMO-free” approach will gain traction as a cost-effective and marketing-friendly alternative to GM crops in the food industry more broadly.