Pest resistance to Bt crops

Cotton Bollworm. Source: USDA

The issue of pest resistance to insect resistant Bt crops receives regular media attention, partly because anti-biotechnology lobbies use it as an argument to vilify GM crops. The German NGO testbiotech, in a recently published report commissioned by Member of the European Parliament Martin Häuslingof the Green Party, argues that because of potential resistance development, GM crops should not be allowed for cultivation in the EU: There must be no large-scale, commercial cultivation of GE herbicide-tolerant or insecticide-producing crops. Such crop cultivation is unsustainable and will lead to a ‘race’ to step up their cultivation. The idea that a

Interview with Dr. Gia Aradottir

In England, there is an important experiment underway. A research group at the Rothamsted Research station in Harpenden, is testing a variety of wheat that has been genetically engineered to scare away aphid pests. If successful, the experiment could demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel, environmentally-friendly way to manage pests. However, a protest group is threatening the ability of the researchers to continue their project, and there have been a lot of claims made about the research. To help shed some light on this experiment, I interviewed Dr. Gia Aradottir, a biologist who is involved in the project. KJHvM: Can

Genetic modification of insects as pest control part 3

In part 1 of this series, I explained how we’ve been using genetic engineering of sorts for nearly half a century to control insects by using radiation to induce sterility or other dominant lethal mutations in insects. In part 2, I explained how we can use genetic engineering to make these projects safer and easier. So… part 3. What’s the next step? Put it to the test!

Genetic modification of insects as pest control part 2

In part 1 of this series, I discussed the history of genetic modification in insects as pest control. We’ve been creating insect GMOs for the purposes of controlling pests for awhile. If you bombard insects with radiation, it can kill rapidly reproducing cells. High doses of radiation can also damage the DNA in quickly reproducing gamete producing cells to the point where it can’t be read, creating severe mutations that stop important proteins from being made. In other words, sperm are produced, but they aren’t healthy. If female flies mate with one of these males, she won’t produce any offspring.

Genetic modification of insects as pest control – Part 1

SterileMaleCochliomyiahominivorax

Vector borne diseases (VBDs) are generally pretty bad. Yellow fever, the disease which stopped the Panama canal dead in it’s tracks, makes your liver fail and turns you yellow… hence the name. Malaria is caused by a parasite which ruptures blood cells in unison. African trypanosomiasis makes you go to sleep and then die. Dengue fever lays you up in bed for six months in some of the worst agony imaginable. Hell, even veterinary VBDs are horrifying… outbreaks of rift valley fever usually present with random farm animal abortions. In 2008, malaria alone killed 708,000 to over a million people,