Chief Executive of Oxitec, Hadyn Parry, presented Oxitec’s solution to insect-borne disease and agricultural pests at the U.S. State Department conference ‘Biotechnology: Role of Biotechnology in Advancing Health and Food Security’.
At the conference Hadyn Parry described how Oxitec, a British biotech company, has used biotechnology to solve threats posed by disease-spreading insects and food security in an increasingly populated world. Oxitec has developed an approach using advanced genetics to control populations of the Dengue mosquito, other disease-spreading insects and agricultural pests in a way that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
The latest estimates project that the world’s population will reach nine billion by 2050 and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, in this time demand for food will increase by 60 percent. Insect-borne diseases, such as Dengue fever, which is now present in more than 100 countries with2.5 billion people thought to be at risk, are also on the rise.
This was the first time a conference, which included other U.S. government departments such as USDA and USAID, had been convened on this topic with members of the diplomatic corps representing Caribbean and Central American countries, a region with a fast growing population and reported Dengue fever cases increasing year-on-year.
Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive of Oxitec, said:
“Disease and food security are two of the greatest threats faced by mankind as our population fast expands. The Oxitec approach, which harnesses the latest techniques in biotechnology and genetics, is a way we can control insects that spread disease and damage crops without the need for harmful chemicals or pesticides.”
Jose W. Fernandez, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, said:
“Over the last four years, I have become passionate about the role of science and technology to address health and food security challenges that are all around us today. I have become convinced that the adoption of biotechnology, with respect to both health and agriculture, has an essential role to play.”
Other attendees at the conference included Under Secretary Woteki from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Howard from the U.S. Agency for International Development, David Hatch, Deputy Director General of the Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura – IICA), Ambassadors from several Central American and Caribbean coujntries and other representatives from the Caribbean and Central American diplomatic corps.
In a follow up to the Conference Dr Jack Bobo Senior Advisor for Biotechnology at the United States State Department accompanied by Jennifer Wilson , United States Department of Agriculture visited Oxitec to have discussions on how Oxitec’s technology can contribute to alleviating the threat of mosquito borne diseases and help contribute toward environmentally sustainable agricultural practice.