Genetically-Enhanced Moths Were Released in the Wild to Remove Pests

Genetically-enhanced diamondback moths were ‘launched’ into the wild combat pest populations that can be encountered in the fields of the New York State. Diamondback moths are encountered on the American continent, in Europe, Southeast Asia, and New Zeeland. They prefer areas where crops grow all year round.

The measure issue related to the diamondback moths is that they can cause an economic loss that reaches billions of dollars as they damage cruciferous crops, among which we can count cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and canola. They also have a high reproduction rate and are quite resistant to most insecticides.

To avoid the use of toxic insecticides or other aggressive solutions, a team of researchers has decided to engineer a disease version of the diamondback moth that can be employed to limit the increase of the wild populations. Genetically engineered insects have been used in the past to diminish the spread of dangerous diseases. For example, sterile mosquitos have to reduce the risk of contracting malaria.

Scientists Released Genetically-Enhanced Moths To Tackle Pests

The team of researchers argues that the use of genetically engineered insects to increase agricultural performance would lead to significant benefits for both farmers and customers at the same time.

Oxitec, the developer behind the genetically engineered mosquitos, created the new moths. Their DNA includes a self-limiting gene that will cause the death of female offspring after they hatch. Tetracycline is used as a suppressor as the team wanted to produce both male and female moths.

In a recent field trial, a batch of moths was marked with fluorescent powder, released, and then captured along wild moths in a trap. Further research revealed that they modified moths performed well, sharing many of the traits observed in the wild equivalents. The implementation of such a method would reduce the use of insecticides by a significant amount, but more extended studies are needed before a wide-scale application can be approved.