Major fly pest genetically modified in lab to produce more males

H. Dunning,  Imperial College London,  2021.

It has been predicted that the world’s population will increase to over nine billion people by 2050, and that global food production will need to increase by around 70 percent to match this rate of change. Lead researcher Dr Angela Meccariello, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Currently, medfly infestations are estimated to contribute towards a loss of up $298 US million annually due to crop damage across a wide geographic area and in over 250 different species of fruits and vegetables. “Due to factors such as climate change, the spread of invasive species and pesticide resistance, there is potential for the negative impact of the medfly on global agriculture to increase if left unchecked. We therefore need new technologies to fight these pests, and our modification could be one such tool.” The team’s modification works by using a DNA-cutting enzyme to destroy the X chromosome during the production of sperm, leading to predominantly male offspring, as females require two Xs. In their experiments, they managed to produce populations of the flies that were 80% male.

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