Genetically engineered males pass on a lethal gene to wild females they mate with
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A type of genetically engineered fly which eventually kills itself off could be an effective method of pest control, according to new research.
These male mutant flies have a lethal gene which interrupts female development.
They were trialled in a greenhouse resulting in “population collapse”.
If released into the wild, they could prevent damage to crops in a way that is cheap, and environmentally friendly, according to the researchers.
But others oppose the technology and say releasing genetically modified flies into the wild could have unintended consequences.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The Mediterranean fruit fly is a global agricultural pest which infests over 300 crops, including wild fruit, vegetables and nuts, causing extensive damage.
Currently, techniques for pest control include sterilisation and insecticides. However, sterile flies do not mate as well in the wild as the process to make them sterile weakens them. Insecticide also poses problems as flies can quickly develop immunity.
The male GM flies produced by biotechnology company Oxitec are only capable of producing male offspring.They have what Oxitec calls “pre-pupal female lethality”. In other words, a female specific gene kills the females before they become adults.