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Genetically engineered male moths released to stop crop damage

A new strain of genetically modified moth has been released into the wild in the state of New York. The Diamondback Moth causes billions of dollars of damage in the crops of the brassica genus, including cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. However, the new strain, developed with the help of Oxford-based biotech company Oxitec, has genetically engineered the moth to prevent its female caterpillar offspring from surviving and subsequently destroying crops. Using the new genetically modified moth, researches at Cornell University successfully suppressed the population in the state of New York and prevented insecticide tolerance from building.

This pioneering project paves the way for a more effective and sustainable pest control that is far more environmentally friendly and much cheaper than the use of insecticides. ‘When released into a field, the self-limiting male insects behaved similarly to their non-modified counterparts in terms of factors that are relevant to their future application in crop protection, such as survival and distance travelled,’ said Professor Anthony Shelton in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University’s AgriTech in New York. Dr Neil Morrison said ‘This study demonstrates the immense potential of this exciting technology as a highly effective pest management tool, which can protect crops in an environmentally sustainable way and is self-limiting in the environment’.


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