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RNA Interference in Agriculture: Methods, Applications, and Governance
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: March 20, 2024 07:52AM

For decades, researchers worldwide have been harnessing the natural
gene-silencing technique called RNA interference (RNAi) for crop
improvement. One of the earliest applications of RNAi was the development of
the delayed-softening trait in tomatoes reported in 1992.

RNAi works like a dimmer switch for genes to lessen their expression instead
of entirely removing them. This method offers many benefits compared to
other gene editing tools. For instance, CRISPR entirely knocks out targeted
genes, while RNAi enables fire-tuning of the gene expression and minimizing
unintended reactions. Furthermore, RNAi allows targeting of particular
tissues in an organism, which further ensures safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Keerti Rathore and his research team at Texas A&M AgriLife Research
provide a prominent example of RNAi application. They used the method of
developing ultra-low gossypol cottonseed. Gossypol is a natural toxin found
in cottonseeds that make them unfit for food and feed. They used RNAi to
silence the toxin in the seeds, turning the cottonseeds into a safe and
valuable source of protein and oil. After 25 years of research, the US Food
and Drug Administration has granted food and feed approval for the ultra-low
gossypol cottonseed.

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) published a paper
on RNAi with Dr. Rathore as one of the authors. The paper highlights the
diverse applications of RNAi, its regulatory considerations, and future


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