While all the recent biotech limelight has been on gene editing, especially CRISPR, another older GM crop 'improvement' technique has continued to creep quietly up on us.
RNA interference, 'RNAi', which artificially alters gene expression, is still with us .Note. RNA interference is also known as double-stranded RNA, 'dsRNA'.
Although at the time no one actually knew why, the very first commercial, fresh GMO venture, the FlavrSavr tomato, ripened abnormally slowly due to RNA interference. GM papaya with RNAi-based viral resistance has been on some markets for a long time. Arctic apples which don't turn brown when sliced thanks to RNAi are working their way into US shops. GM-Free Scotland readers will be aware of Pandora's Potatoes with RNA interference to stop their bruises showing (even although the damage is still there), to stop them turning brown when fried (even although they taste like cardboard), to stop them producing the carcinogen, acrylamide (even although potatoes don't produce enough acrylamide to cause cancer), and to encourage potato growing in areas with a high risk of late blight (even if other crops could be better grown there) .
Many others are under development, but the blockbuster everyone's been waiting for is a commodity crop with its very own RNAi-based insecticide. This is a radical departure from what's gone before because the artificial RNAi in the GM plant will be designed to silence gene expression in another organism in its environment.