Genetically Engineered Fruit Flies can Save Crops

Genetically Engineered Fruit Flies can Save Crops

A new research suggests that if genetically engineered fruit flies are released into the wild with an aim to increase the population of male population, it can prove as an effective and environment-friendly way to control pests.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Oxford Insect Technologies (Oxitec) said the modified flies will encourage non-viable mating. It can bring a decline in pests' populations hence, saving the crops across the globe.

The Mediterranean fruit fly leads to a lot of loss to crops. Currently, it is being controlled through different measures, including insecticides, baited traps and biological control and releasing sterilized insects leading to non-viable mating called as the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT).

For the study, researchers imitated a wild environment within greenhouse in Crete. Oxitec flies were released in that environment and researchers studied the impact of it. Lead researcher Dr. Philip Leftwich, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences, and Oxitec was of the view, "Our research looked at whether releasing Oxitec flies, which are genetically engineered so that only male fly offspring survive, could provide a better alternative".

Similar technique is currently in use is known as SIT. But there is a drawback in it, which is sterile males do not tend to mate in the wild owing to irradiation method. But in the case of genetically engineered flies, these are not sterile. They produce male offspring after mating with local pest females. This will bring a decline in crop-damaging females.

The method is also considered to be a cost-effective and useful alternative to irradiation. The next stage of the research is to get approvals for open-field studies.

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