Major advances in agricultural biotechnology have enabled new strategies to protect crops against pests. For example, some genetically modified crops produce so-called “dsRNA biopesticides” within plant tissue to protect the crop from insect pests via a cellular mechanism called RNA interference. Upon ingestion of the dsRNA biopesticide by a pest insect, the biosynthesis of targeted proteins by the insect is prevented, resulting in insect death. Some dsRNA biopesticides are rapidly approaching commercialization. However, limited information is available regarding the processes that govern the fate of dsRNA biopesticides after release from GM crops to surrounding environmental matrices (e.g., agricultural soils), resulting in uncertainty in exposure analysis required for environmental risk assessment of RNAi crops.
To reduce these uncertainties, we have developed novel experimental approaches to evaluate the transport and transformation of dsRNA biopesticides in environmental matrices including soils, sediments and surface water bodies. The work aims to contribute a more complete understanding of the stability and distribution of dsRNA biopesticides in environmental matrices and informs exposure analysis required environmental risk assessment models. By enabling research into the fate of these biomacromolecular pesticides, we can better evaluate potential environmental and health impacts associated with the use of next-generation GM crops protected by dsRNA and other biopesticides.
Dr. Parker began her work in this area as a postdoctoral research fellow at ETH Zurich supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (European Commission, Horizon 2020). Her group at WUSTL is supported by a USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant (2017-2021).
Parker KM* and Sander M*. Environmental Fate of Insecticidal Plant-Incorporated Protectants from Genetically Modified Crops: Knowledge Gaps and Research Opportunities. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017, Feature Article, in press (Full text)
Other Project Outcomes
- June 2018 (USDA, some work supported by Marie Curie): Dr. Parker presents at the Gordon Research Conference, Environmental Sciences: Water.
- May 2018 (USDA): Dr. Parker presents a project update to the USDA.
- March 2018 (USDA, some work supported by Marie Curie): Dr. Parker presents her work on dsRNA fate in agricultural soils at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans.
- Sept. 2017 (Marie Curie): Mr. Leandro Portenier completes his MS thesis on dsRNA transport under the supervision of Dr. Parker and Dr. Sander. Congrats Leandro!
- Sept. 2017 (Marie Curie): Dr. Parker works with colleagues in Environmental Chemistry at ETH to present exciting trends in environmental chemistry at Scientifica 2017.
- June 2017 (Marie Curie): Mr. Baptiste Clerc completes his MS thesis on dsRNA adsorption under the supervision of Dr. Parker and Dr. Sander. Congrats Baptiste!
- June 2017 (Marie Curie): Dr. Parker presents her work on dsRNA fate in agricultural soils at the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors meeting in Ann Arbor, MI.
- April 2017 (Marie Curie):Dr. Parker presents her work on dsRNA fate in agricultural soils at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco.
- Feb. 2017 (Marie Curie):Dr. Parker presents her work on dsRNA fate in agricultural soils to the Biosafety working group of the IPLANTA Cost Action Network in Rome Italy.