New Oxitec product line set to help farmers combat pink bollworm

December 10, 2012

5th December 2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Researchers at Oxitec Ltd have today announced the development of a new strain of the pink bollworm moth, which is set to help cotton farmers combat this major global pest.

In a paper published today in the journal PLoS ONE, Oxitec scientists report on the development of a genetically modified strain of the pink bollworm moth, which is unable to survive unless provided with the antibiotic, tetracycline, in the laboratory. The strain is, in effect, genetically sterile: when released into the field, the modified moths pass on the lethal gene to their offspring, which die; reducing or eliminating populations of the pest in the target area.

Commenting on the paper, lead scientist Dr Neil Morrison said:

“Pink bollworm can be an extremely damaging pest, causing crop losses worth millions of dollars to farmers every year. The agricultural community is crying out for solutions to pests like pink bollworm that are not only more effective, but which have a much lower impact on the environment than synthetic pesticides. Oxitec’s approach can dramatically reduce or even locally eliminate pest populations without the need for chemicals, so it can offer a real alternative to farmers.”

The Oxitec pink bollworm strain (called OX3402C) has completed a series of rigorous in-house testing to establish that it can be an efficient tool to control pest populations. The strain is now available for external evaluation, and Oxitec is looking for third-party collaborators to begin in-country testing under appropriate regulatory supervision.

Speaking of future development plans, Oxitec Chief Executive, Hadyn Parry added:

“With this product, we can offer cotton farmers superior and insecticide-free protection against the pink bollworm pest. We’re looking forward to working with partners to establish how this promising new approach can improve crop protection strategies in their own country”.

The article is available to download from the PLoS website: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050922