February 05, 2020
Sustainable and safe pest control is an important area of research in this day and age. Insects such as the diamondback moth can create billions of dollar worth of damage to commercial crops annually. Creating novel solutions to existing problems such as this is imperative to ensure protection of valuable food crops.
Cornell University researchers have collaborated with Oxitec Ltd on a promising experiment involving ‘living insecticide’. Oxitec developed a genetically modified strain of diamondback moth which is ‘self-limiting’. When these modified male moths were released into an open field they found and mated with the pest females and passed their modified ‘self-limiting’ genes onto their offspring resulting in only male caterpillars surviving.
The study showed that sustained release of the modified males was able to suppress the pest population, and unlike traditional insecticide use, this suppression of the pest population was both targeted and ecologically sustainable. Because no chemical pesticides were used the pest population can not adapt to become resistant to the insecticide. Importantly, once the researchers stopped releasing the modified moths into the field, they disappeared from the environment within a few moth generations. This highly effective pest management tool may someday soon be used to protect crops from pest damage without the need for chemical insecticides.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project
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