OXFORD, England, July 16, 2015 /CNW/ - A new pesticide-free and
environmentally-friendly way to control insect pests has moved ahead
today with the publication of scientific results showing that Oxitec
diamondback moths (DBM) with a 'self-limiting gene' can dramatically
reduce populations of DBM, an invasive species and serious pest of
cabbages, kale, canola and other crucifer crops around the world.
Published in the journal BMC Biology, today's results provide another successful proof of concept for the
novel approach developed by Oxitec, an Oxford University spinout
company pioneering insecticide-free methods to control pest insect
populations. The self-limiting gene technique has already been trialled
against dengue fever-carrying mosquitos, successfully reducing their
populations by over 90% in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands - an
unprecedented level of control by any method, and one that is leading
to municipal projects following approval by the national biosafety
group in Brazil for releases throughout the country.
The approach was inspired by the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which
has been used worldwide for more than 50 years, where male insects are
sterilized by radiation and released to mate with pest females. Without
offspring the population crashes. Oxitec's approach harnesses the
natural reproductive instincts of the male insects, but doesn't rely on
radiation to sterilize them, which can affect many genes and the
insect's ability to mate. Instead, a self-limiting gene is carried by
the insects, in this case diamondback moths. The engineered male moths
are released to mate with the pest females, and because their female
offspring do not survive to reproduce, the number of pest moths
dwindles. The Oxitec moths also carry a color marker for monitoring.
In the new results published today, scientists from the US, UK and China
show that diamondback moth populations in greenhouses were well
controlled within 8 weeks.
Unlike insecticides, which can affect a broad variety of insect life
including bees and other beneficial insects, this approach is entirely
species-specific, affecting only the targeted pest population. The
self-limiting gene is also non-toxic, so the moths can be eaten by
birds or other animals with no adverse effects.
"This research is opening new doors for the future of farming with pest
control methods that are non-toxic and pesticide-free," said Dr Neil
Morrison, lead DBM Research Scientist at Oxitec and a co-author on the
paper. "We all share an interest in safe and environmentally friendly
pest control, so this is a very promising tool that could be put to
good use by farmers as part of integrated pest management (IPM)
strategies for healthy and sustainable agriculture."
Co-author Tony Shelton, Professor of Entomology at Cornell University,
is also an expert on IPM, and hopes that the new technology can be used
as a part of more agro-ecological farming systems, including organic
production. "Both conventional and organic pesticides are failing to
control DBM, so it's time for scientists and farmers to work together
to find new tools," he said.
The struggle with diamondback moth for cruciferous vegetable production
costs farmers around the world up to $5 billion dollars each year. DBM
is poorly controlled by current methods, especially as the moths are
becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides.
"Diamondback is a serious problem for farmers in New York State and
around the world - anywhere cruciferous vegetables and field crops are
grown. These moths invade and attack the crops, and they are developing
resistance to insecticides, so we urgently need new tools to better
control them," added Professor Shelton, who is planning follow-up
studies to test the Oxitec moths under harsher, outdoor conditions in
upstate New York.
These studies include field cage tests this summer, with plans for
small-scale field releases in future. The upcoming trials have already
been approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) following
extensive review by independent experts and a public consultation last
Oxitec's Dr Morrison concluded: "As agricultural challenges make the
coexistence of diverse pest control methods increasingly important,
farmers will - more than ever - need the support of their governments,
public, and the scientific community to help provide them with the
tools they need to put food on our tables."
For the open-access paper, 'Pest control and resistance management
through release of insects carrying a male-selecting transgene',
published in BMC Biology, visit:
Oxitec is a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insect pests
that spread disease and damage crops, and was founded in 2002 as a
spinout from Oxford University (UK).
About the diamondback moth
DBM is the world's worst insect pest of crucifer crops such as cabbage,
canola, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. This moth is not sufficiently
controlled by natural enemies or other integrated pest management
practices, so growers throughout the world typically spray their crops
many times with insecticides. This has led to DBM developing resistance
to most insecticides. There is also growing concern about pesticide
residues on crops, worker safety, and potential hazards to the
environment, so new approaches are needed.
Diamondback Moth FAQ and video via Oxitec: http://www.oxitec.com/dbm
Professor Shelton's DBM page at Cornell University: http://bit.ly/1Cd9CYZ
For more information: Site: http://www.oxitec.com/dbm
For further information:
Press contact: Chris Creese, email@example.com, +44-(0)1235-832393