Western Australia to begin trials of GM medflies in attempt to control pest

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West Australian researchers are hoping a genetically modified fruit fly will help break the breeding cycle of the Mediterranean fruit fly, a destructive pest.

Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly, is a significant horticultural pest that causes an estimated $200 million damage to West Australian crops each year.

The Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) is looking at alternative methods of Medfly control after the phasing out of insecticide fenthion.

DAFWA has now teamed up with UK technology company Oxitec to trial the effectiveness of a new method of Medfly control using genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Oxitec research group leader Neil Morrison said the method worked a bit like Medfly sterilisation, which is another method of pest control.

Mr Morrison said a “self-limiting gene” is inserted into male fruit flies, which prevents the female offspring from reaching adulthood.

“If you reduce the number of females, that knocks down the pest population in the next generation,” he said.

Morrison said the GMO option was appealing because it did not rely on “chemicals or toxins”.

DAFWA director of horticulture development David Windsor said the department was set to begin greenhouse trials at its South Perth facility in 2016.

“What those test are essentially about is do the local WA girls of the Medfly world like the British boys,” he said.

“The first question we have to answer in terms of if this is going to be an effective technique is, are the flies compatible with each other.”

Read full, original post: Genetically modified fruit flies could be future of Medfly control

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