Jan 8, 2024
EPA approves GreenLight Bio bioinsecticide targeting Colorado potato beetle

GreenLight Biosciences has received EPA approval for a bioinsecticide designed to combat the Colorado potato beetle. Calantha, based on ribonucleic acid (RNA), is the first GreenLight Bio product to complete U.S. regulatory review, according to a news release.

The company said the product will be available to U.S. growers for use on potatoes this year.

“The registration of Calantha marks not just a milestone for our company but a quantum leap for farmers, our food system and security, and people,” Andrey Zarur, GreenLight Bio CEO, said in a news release. “This is a new day for farmers seeking to balance pest management with biodiversity protection and environmental health. Calantha embodies the promise of such a future, along with the dozens of other innovations in our product pipeline.”

Chemical pesticide resistance is estimated to cost the U.S. agricultural sector at least $10 billion annually, according to the release. The Colorado potato beetle, which decimates plants in the nightshade family including potatoes, develops resistance quickly to traditional pesticide and accounts for more than half a billion dollars in crop loss worldwide each year.

“Potato growers have expressed their struggle with managing the Colorado potato beetle due to increasing resistance to currently available chemical products,” Mark Singleton, GreenLight Bio chief commercial officer and general manager of Plant Health, said. “They want effective products that align with their sustainability targets. Calantha is the perfect fit.”

Calantha degrades within three days and leaving no harmful residue on plants or in the environment, soil or waterways, according to the company. Consumption of the dsRNA (double-stranded ribonucleic acid) by the Colorado potato beetle – and only the beetle – causes it to stop eating and die from its own toxins.

Calantha is mixed with water and applied using existing standard agricultural equipment and practices at less than one-tenth the rate at which many chemical pesticides are commonly used, according to the release.

The EPA released a decision document detailing its four-year review of Calantha’s safety and efficacy data. Calantha is the first registration of a foliar-applied product with an RNA ingredient under Section Three of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

In October 2023, the National Potato Council issued a letter of support (.pdf) for Calantha’s approval. “The Colorado potato beetle accounts for more than $500 million worldwide in annual crop losses,” NPC wrote. “Managing this destructive pest presents a unique challenge: it is quick to develop resistance to mitigation efforts and many existing options have lost their efficacy. As such, new tools, like Calantha, are needed.”

Earlier this year, the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee, a global public-private technical advisory group focused on resistance management, created a new category, Group 35, for ledprona, the active ingredient in Calantha, in its Mode of Action classification.

Calantha is under review by regulators in other key markets around the world, according to the release.

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