Using genetically modified moths to control pests

Genetically modified diamondback moths designed to wipe out wild pest populations were released in fields for the first time in New York state.

Diamondback moths are migratory pests found in the Americas, Europe, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, but especially in areas where crops can be grown yearround.

In these parts - where it's not too hot nor too cold - are where diamondback moths cause the greatest problems, including billions of dollars in damages to cruciferous crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and canola. They're one of the most damaging insects because of their high reproduction rate and resistance to most insecticides.

To address these problems in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, researchers have successfully genetically engineered (GE) male diamondback moths to control the pest population of their wild counterparts, according to findings published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

"There's a lot of interest in using genetically engineered insects for controlling medically important diseases," said Anthony Shelton, lead author of the study and entomology professor at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"In agriculture, though, I think we can take the advantage of genetically engineered insects to control a major pest species."

(c) AFP 01/30/2020

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