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Oxitec's Olive Fly Strain Could Become First GM Insect to Undergo Field Evaluation in the EU
Date:9/4/2013

OXFORD, England, September 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Oxitec has applied to Spanish regulatory authorities for permission to carry out a netted field evaluation of its olive fly strain: a novel approach to controlling one of Europe's most damaging agricultural pests.  If approved, the study would be the first outdoor trial of a GM insect in the EU.  

The olive fly (Bactrocera oleae) is the single major pest for olives, causing widespread crop damage and significant financial losses to Europe's olive farmers. It is extremely difficult to control using existing methods. John Vontas, Associate Professor of Biotechnology and Applied Biology, University of Crete, Greece, a leading international authority on insecticide resistance, explains the problem:  "The control of olive fly has been largely based on the use of chemicals, but the intense use of insecticides has led to the development of insecticide resistance, which makes control problematic. In addition, the new European Union pesticides legislation means that a large number of efficient insecticides have been or are being phased out, or their use is dramatically restricted. Alternative control methods, such as pheromones, traps and biological control have also been employed, but their effectiveness is much less."

Oxitec's olive fly strain carries a genetic modification. In Oxitec's pest control approach, the company's engineered males are released to mate with wild females, resulting in the death of all the female offspring.  In earlier in-door caged trials Oxitec's approach was able to completely eliminate wild-type olive flies in less than two months. It has also completed extensive laboratory and greenhouse testing.

Conventional products tend not to distinguish between the target pest and other insect species, but by using male
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SOURCE Oxitec Ltd.
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