A few months back the government of the United States lived up to its plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes within the Florida Keys. This plan was controversial for obvious reasons, but that particular controversy has not deterred another similar plan from taking place with the US. Only this time researchers are not releasing mutant mosquitoes; instead a moth that destroys certain crops is being released into the environment. However, these moths have been endowed with a gene that will cause their deaths before they have a chance to destroy crops.
The mutant moth will first be released within the state of New York in order to observe how well the genetic tinkering works to prevent crop damage. These moths are referred to as diamondback moths. Genetic scientists have engineered some of these moths in a manner that similar to how the mosquitoes released in Florida were modified. The plan is to give male moths a gene that will eventually cause them to die. After these male moths mate, these deadly genes will then be passed down to the next generation. With each generation there will exist a fewer amount of moths. Eventually, the diamondback moth population will become so small that they will cease to pose a problem for farmers and their crops.
rm of genetic modification is similar to other forms of pest control that were initially developed during the 1950s. This particular pest control method has been appropriately named the “sterile insect technique”. One of the first insects to undergo this genetic alteration was the screwworm. Screwworms were genetically engineered to produce sterile offspring. Luckily, by the early 1980s, the screwworm pest population had largely died off, saving the economy millions. Diamondback moths are particularly damaging to the economy, as they cause five billion dollars in crop damage annually. If this trend in genetic engineering continues, the United States will one day be free from the devastation caused by diamondback moths.
What are some common complaints you have heard concerning the use of genetically modified insect pests being released into the environment?