Genetic ‘kill switch’ eradicates female silkworms for a better crop

The following is an excerpt.

The technology used to kill off the female mosquitoes that spread tropical diseases has been turned to a new species — silkworms.

It might seem counter-intuitive to destroy half the crop of such valuable creatures, which can yield a kilometre of silk thread from each cocoon. But male silkworms (Bombyx mori) are much more useful for farmers: they are more resistant to disease, eat less and produce better silk, says Luke Alphey, chief scientific officer at Oxitec, a biotechnology company based in Abingdon, UK. At present, separating males from females is impractical.

Oxitec has already developed male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass on a ‘lethal’ gene to offspring that kills the young before they reach adulthood. The mosquitoes are now in field tests in Brazil and other countries, where it is hoped they will help to control dengue fever by ensuring wild female mosquitoes produce fewer viable offspring.

Now the company, working with researchers in China, is applying similar technology to an insect that people want to encourage rather than reduce.

Read the full article here: Genetic ‘kill switch’ eradicates female silkworms for a better crop

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