Scientists are Gene-Editing Flies to Fight Crop Damage

E. Mullin,  WIRED,  2023.

In greenhouses in Oregon last month, researchers with the US Department of Agriculture began testing one such approach: sterilized male flies. The gene-edited bugs, made by St. Louis–based biotech company Agragene, are meant to suppress wild fly populations. The idea is that if they were to be released into the environment, the sterilized males would mate with wild females, resulting in a fertility dead end. “We see this technology as being able to provide healthier fruit and vegetables without doing a lot of harm to the environment,” says Agragene CEO Bryan Witherbee. Scientists at the company used the DNA editing tool Crispr to knock out two essential genes in fly embryos—one involved in male reproduction and another with female development. As a result, only sterile males hatch while the females die. “You don’t want to release females into the population, because those are the ones that are doing the damage,” says Stephanie Gamez, director of research and development at Agragene.

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