Researchers in Germany have developed a way of engineering plants so they can flourish in difficult conditions without raising an ethical storm. Ed Yong reports when is a genetically modified plant not genetically modified? When its genes are being suppressed rather than spliced, claim researchers from Bayer CropScience. Michael Metzlaff, head of Bayer's crop productivity research group, has developed a way to fine tune the repressive levels of PARP so the plant can continue to grow while still being protected from the elements. He uses a technique called RNA interference, which employs a special molecule to block the message sent from the DNA that tells the plant to produce more of the PARP protein. The gene isn't completely shut off, but the plant's hyperactive stress response is toned down.
"The plants are more relaxed," says Metzlaff. "They can lean back and just do what they have to do."
Metzlaff's method can be very specifically targeted to a plant of choice, using parts of the PARP genetic sequence that do not exist in other species. This tight control should allay fears from the anti-GM lobby that the RNA molecule could spread and harm other species in the area.
Science: The GM crop that will sow less bitterness - Telegraph
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