Genetically Modified Insects: Designed to Cause Extinction

21/07/2015 - 2 minutes

Insects can be very dangerous creatures, spreading diseases and destroying the yield. The British biotech company Oxitec developed a unique approach to potentially wipe out some harmful populations of these tiny animals. Studies on the diamondback moth are already showing good results!

Farmers around the world struggle with a serious pest caused by the diamondback moth (DBM), an insect that is infesting the cruciferous crops. The damage is estimated to cost up to €4,5Bn ($5Bn) each year, and current methods control DBM only poorly, especially as these insects are becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides.

To fight the pest, the Abingdon-based Oxitec wants to introduce genetically modified moths into the harming populations that are designed to eradicate its own species.

The approach is inspired by the Sterile Insect Technique, which has been used worldwide for more than 50 years. Male insects are sterilized by radiation and released to mate with healthy females. Because there is no possible offspring, the population crashes. However, instead of sterilizing the insects and thereby potentially affecting many genes and the insect’s ability to mate,

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