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expert reaction to study looking at field release of genetically engineered moth for crop protection

A study, published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, reports on the use of genetically engineered moths for crop protection.

 

Prof Michael Bonsall, Professor of Mathematical Biology, University of Oxford, said:

“This study aims to compare how self-limiting diamondback moth compare to the wild type, unmodified moths.  The study evaluated moth characteristics such as survival and distance travelled in a field study environment and shows how the modified moths perform as well as the wild type moths.

“The study is robust in its design, analysis and interpretation using laboratory, field and molecular methods to investigate the relative differences between modified and wild type diamondback moth

“While the study shows the efficacy of the GM releases at reducing the diamondback moth pest population, one of the real benefits of this work is understanding how these technologies can also be used to manage resistance to other control interventions such as chemical and/or biological pesticides.  Through the GM releases, it is feasible to also re-introduce susceptibility to chemical/biological pesticides that allows these technologies to become useful (again).  This is highly beneficial to modern agriculture to have multiple control options available.

“Very neatly, this study moves the control of this hugely-devastating crop pest onto a new level of scrutiny.  As we learn lots from the science of these GM technologies this should allow us to develop more proportionate and logically-consistent approaches to assessing the environmental impacts of these sorts of control interventions.”

 

‘First field release of a genetically engineered, self-limiting agricultural pest insect: evaluating its potential for future crop protection’ by Anthony M. Shelton et al. was published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology at 05:00 UK time on Wednesday 29 January 2020.

 

Declared interests

Prof Michael Bonsall: “I have worked with Oxitec.  I have had joint BBSRC funding for postdocs and studentships and we currently have a student working on theoretical models of resistance management in agricultural pests.  A previous BBSRC grant looked at models and empirical lab studies on diamondback moth in using Oxitec technology to manage resistance (to Bt biopesticides).  Oxitec was a spin-out from the Dept. of Zoology at the University of Oxford (where I am based) – I have not received shares, direct or indirect renumeration from Oxitec.  I am employee of the University of Oxford.”

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