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Open release of GM insects threatens to spread pesticide resistance

Posted: October 9, 2013 |   Comments

( UK-based Oxitec has developed new genetically modified insects that it plans to release in open field trials in the coming months. The company plans to release GM olive flies in Spain and GM Mediterranean fruit flies in Brazil. The olive fly strain being used is not native to Spain, and studies of the species in Greece have identified different levels of pesticide-resistance in different areas. The flies are engineered to breed with native pests and produce offspring with them, the females of which mostly die as larvae. In this way, they plan to suppress the native pest population.

Many are concerned that release of non-native strains of GM pests could spread undesirable, unnatural traits, such as pesticide resistance.

"Use of non-native strains is reckless because Oxitec's GM pests are not sterile and the non-native strain of GM males will survive and breed with wild flies for many generations," said Dr. Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "It is very risky to introduce non-native strains of pests into a new country. Harmful traits such as pesticide resistance would be impossible to eradicate once they spread through the wild population."

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