Pesticides Might Soon Be Replaced With an RNA-Based Vaccine

Chemical pesticides are a necessary evil in modern agriculture, but researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) may have found an alternative in an RNA-based vaccine. Created to be eco-friendly, this new innovation in agriculture is made to fight back insects without damaging the surrounding environment. The vaccine works by triggering an automatic defense mechanism found in plants, animals and other complex organisms. The RNA-based vaccine does not necessarily deal with insects looking to eat crops, but instead gives plants the ability to fight against the pathogens that insects carry.

Manfred Heinlein, a cell biology expert who worked on the project, explained that the pesticide alternative could "strengthen the plant’s own pathogen defense systems through a natural mechanism." The application of the RNA-based vaccine would be quite similar to pesticides as they would simply be sprayed over the leaves. Unlike pesticides, the vaccine is biodegradable and does not accumulate on the environment like traditional pesticides.

Image Credit: Bill Ravlin/Michigan State University