Biotech Updates

Self-limiting Gene Controls Invasive Moth Sans Pesticides

July 22, 2015

A new pesticide-free and environmentally-friendly way to control insect pests has moved ahead with the publication of scientific results by researchers at Oxitec, showing that Oxitec diamondback moths (DBM) with a ‘self-limiting gene' can dramatically reduce populations of DBM, an invasive species and serious pest of crucifer crops around the world.

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 female insects. Oxitec's approach doesn't rely on radiation to sterilize male insects. 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 female insects, 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.

Tony Shelton, IPM expert and professor of entomology at Cornell University, said "Diamondback is a serious problem for farmers in New York State and around the world. These moths invade and attack the crops, and they are developing resistance to insecticides, so we urgently need new tools to better control them." Professor Shelton is planning to test the Oxitec moths under harsher, outdoor conditions in upstate New York.

For more details about this research, read the news release at the Oxitec website.