I am thrilled to share that S2G portfolio company GreenLight Biosciences has secured the first-ever US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of a novel RNA-based foliar applied crop protection solution. The product, called Calantha, is an insecticide that effectively controls the Colorado Potato Beetle, a highly destructive pest of an important staple crop. Calantha offers farmers a compelling and cost-competitive alternative to traditional chemical pesticides. This groundbreaking achievement marks a pivotal moment in GreenLight’s journey and heralds an era of safer and more resilient crop protection solutions.
For the last century, chemical pesticides have been ubiquitous and effective tools for crop protection. Indeed, chemicals have helped farmers feed the world by protecting crops from consumption and destruction by insects, fungi, and weed pressures. But today, these products are falling short of the needs of the farmer and the consumer due to their environmental and human health impacts, as well as increasing pest resistance to the chemicals themselves. Pesticides have been linked to nervous system issues, eye and skin irritation, cancer, and hormone and endocrine issues for farmworkers and communities near frequent spraying. Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, and nearby vegetation and can be toxic to a host of nontarget organisms, including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and other plants.
Due to increased prevalence and awareness of these issues, regulators are seeking to restrict chemical pesticide use and consumers are increasingly demanding organic and other agricultural products produced with minimal use of chemical pesticides. In addition, the growing prevalence of pesticide and herbicide resistance poses a threat to farm businesses and to national and global food security. With the increased occurrence of weeds and pests that are resistant to chemicals typically used in pest control solutions, it is clear that farmers need new kinds of solutions that can break this ever-quickening cycle of chemical resistance and environmental degradation.
At S2G, we believe that sustainability and profitability must be hand in hand when addressing environmental and human health impacts of food production and a new set of tools must be developed to support both agricultural businesses and the environment. RNA is one of those tools. It can be used to create biomolecules that are as effective as pesticides, degrade quickly in the environment, leave little to no residue, and are highly targeted, which means they do not affect non-target species or degrade biodiversity.
Additionally, RNA can be developed, produced, and applied at a price point and in a process that makes it economically viable for the farmer and the ultimate consumer of healthy foods. We believe RNA has the potential to be the solution for elimination of a variety of pests across multiple classes, and to do so in a way that works for the farmer, the environment, and the consumer.
The registration of Calantha is only the beginning for RNA-based crop protection products. The approval of the first RNA product will not only provide relief to farmers battling the Colorado Potato Beetle but will set a precedent for future RNA-based crop protection solutions to join the market. With the EPA’s recent approval of Calantha and establishment of an RNA specific pathway for future approvals, the regulators seem to agree.
It will take new, standard-shifting technologies to usher in an era of profitable, sustainable agriculture that can truly support environmental welfare and farm longevity. GreenLight is a company developing RNA into one of these standard-shifting solutions, with a pipeline of future solutions addressing a wide variety of crops and pest categories. We are excited to continue supporting GreenLight as it sets new standards for crop protection efficacy and safety by enabling farmers to maintain yield and profitability while minimizing environmental impact.