Frankenflies to battle pests: Scientists plan to launch thousands of GM insects into fields as alternative to using chemicals
Oxitec has developed a genetically modified strain of the diamond back moth – a real one is pictured here on a cabbage leaf – which would destroy the wild pests
Thousands of GM insects developed by British scientists are set to be the first released into fields in Europe as an alternative to chemical pesticides.
The plan is to release a large number of genetically modified olive flies that would be used to kill off wild pests that damage the crop.
The technology is the brainchild of experts at British company Oxitec, who insist the GM insects are better for the environment that spraying crops with chemical pesticides.
However critics fear the development could put human health at risk if people eat the flies or their larvae if they reach food products.
The trial would involve releasing genetically modified male olive flies which would mate with the wild females with the result that all the female offspring would die at the larvae or maggot stage.
In theory, this would lead to a big reduction in the olive fly population so allowing the trees to produce fruit without using chemical sprays.