Animal Contributions to Human Needs
Could we use pests as pest control? Scientists are debating on releasing genetically engineered fruit flies into the wild to keep the pest levels down. New research revealed how the release of the genetically engineered male flies could be used as an effective population suppressant, which would save crops worldwide.
One of the flies to be used is the Mediterranean fruit fly. This species is a serious agricultural pest that causes extensive and expensive damage to crops. The fly infests over three-hundred kinds of domesticated and wild fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The current way of keeping the populations in check is through various insecticides, baited traps, biological control, and releasing sterilized insects to produce non-viable mating’s, known as the sterile insect technique. Out of the ways to control the flies, sterilizing them is considered to be the most environmentally friendly. The negative side of this method is that the males don’t tend to mate as well in the wild because the irradiation method used to sterilize them also weakens them.
These new genetically altered flies, Oxitec flies, are genetically engineered so only male offspring survive. They are not sterile, but they are only capable of producing male offspring after mating with the pest females. Not only will the population number of the species will decrease greatly, but more importantly the number of the crop damaging females will decrease. This also means that because the males do not have to be sterilized, they will turn out healthier.
How the Oxitec method works is by introducing a female-specific gene into the insects that interrupts the development of females before they reach their reproductive stage. The populations of healthy males and females can be produced by the addition of a chemical repressor. If the chemical repressor is absent in the flies diet, only the males survive. Those males are then released to mate with the wild pest...
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