Do Monsanto have the next big thing?

Imagine if some technology came along that made glyphosate kill glyphosate resistant weeds. If this did happen, what would we do with this technology? BioDirectTM (aka RNAi) is a new concept from Monsanto that could do just that. It could be the next big thing for the herbicide industry.

The ‘i’ in RNAi stands for ‘interference’. RNA is essentially a small piece of genetic code that all living things use to carry out a specific function within a cell, including coding enzymes that plants need to survive. One way of killing the plant is to spray a herbicide that stops a specific enzyme working (this is how most herbicides work). Another way to kill the plant is to knock out the RNA so that the enzyme is not made at all. BioDirectTM involves spraying a combination of herbicide and fragments of RNA that bind to a specific RNA in the plant. The RNA fragments knock out the RNA that codes for resistant enzyme, and the herbicide knocks out any enzyme that is still susceptible to the herbicide.

The initial research into BioDirectTM technology is focused on glyphosate resistant weeds as this is now the biggest challenge facing North American grain growers. However, it may be possible to apply this technology to other herbicides in the future. It is early days, and BioDirectTM will be several years away. At the moment, this technology is very species specific and is also very specific to the exact resistance mechanism that the weed has.


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