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Tag Archive for: Rothamsted Research

Florida’s Fight Over GM Mosquitoes Going to a Vote

Florida’s Fight Over GM Mosquitoes Going to a Vote

Scientists say there is strong evidence that the Zika virus can be controlled by releasing genetically modified male mosquitoes into the wild so they can mate with the disease-spreading females to produce sterile offspring.

But plans for a trial run in Key Haven, Fla., an unincorporated community just east of Key West, have been so controversial that officials decided to put it to a public vote.

Tuesday’s referendum is non-binding, but will weigh heavily on whether the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District proceeds with the test, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August.

The genetically modified mosquitoes have been tested in Brazil, Panama and the Caymen Islands, where they reduced the wild population of Zika-bearing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by more than 90 percent, according to British biotechnology company Oxitec, which developed the engineered strain of mosquitoes.

“In comparison, current technologies such as insecticides are only 30-to 50 percent effective at best,” Oxitec spokesman Matthew Warren told Seeker.

In addition to the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects and other disorders, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of dengue and chikungunya. It’s the female mosquitoes that do the biting, spreading disease in their wake.

Oxitec’s solution is to engineer a gene in the males, which are then released into the wild so they can mate with the females. Any offspring that result from the union will carry an engineered “kill switch” and die before maturing enough to mate or bite, drastically reducing the population.

“We have now released more than 180 million of our male self-limiting mosquitoes worldwide. And there have been no reports of adverse impacts in any of these releases,” Warren said.

The trial in the Florida Keys would be the first in the United States.

“The genetically modified mosquitoes are incredibly promising. They’ve been incredibly successful in many of the cases where they’ve been tested for Zika so far. I think that they have tremendous promise in the United States, but there are obviously a lot of fears,” ecologist Colin Carlson, with the University of California, Berkeley, told Seeker.

Among those opposed to the Florida trial is a group of physicians, led by Dr. John Norris, who have questions about whether Oxitec’s mosquitoes, which are dependent on the antibiotic tetracycline to survive, will end up spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“We do not know what to expect when millions of mosquitoes are released on small neighborhoods possibly covered in resistant germs,” the doctors wrote in a petition to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board.

If the board decides to proceed with the trial, the doctors want to conduct a study to see if residents have altered bacterial resistance patterns.

Whether the referendum passes or not, one thing is certain: the spread of the Zika virus in South Florida is growing.

“We’re still trying to figure out how severe it’s going to be,” Carlson said. “From a public health perspective, it’s not a great situation.”

Pending approval by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, Oxitec’s test could begin next year.

Seeker.com

Super-moth INVASION: Mutant insects to attack crops as numbers EXPLODE

Super-moth INVASION: Mutant insects to attack crops as numbers EXPLODE

AN INVASION of super-moths which attack crops including cabbages and cauliflowers are expected to arrive in Britain from eastern Europe.

Experts have warned of a potential explosion in numbers of the insect after exceptionally high numbers of moths arrived in the UK.

The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), which can be blown long distances on the wind, is considered to be a super-pest because it is resistant to most insecticides, and the centimetre-long caterpillars can cause losses to growers.

Researchers say that if the weather is warm and suitable for breeding there could be an “explosion” in numbers by the end of the season.

They say they do not know exactly where the moths have come from, but it could be eastern Europe or Russia.

Chris Shortall, a research scientist and co-ordinator of the Rothamsted light-trap network in Hertfordshire said he had seen higher than usual numbers of the moth in traps at the research centre, and online reports of a high incidence of diamondbacks.

He said: “Normally, we gather the data at the end of the year from the volunteers that run light-traps around the country, but on the basis of these reports I contacted them and asked them to provide the data that they have so far.

“They reported much higher numbers than usual. In our light-traps here at Rothamsted we have seen in two nights the number of diamondback moths that we usually record in a year, and this is reflected elsewhere in the network.

“I’m concerned for cabbage and cauliflower growers, which is why I wanted to inform the relevant organisations and growers as early as possible.

“If the summer weather is warm and favourable for the reproduction of the moths we could see an explosion in the number of them by the end of the season.”

According to long-standing annual records from the Rothamsted Insect Survey, numbers reported so far are exceptionally high, and of a similar level to that seen in 1996.

The diamondback moth is considered to be a super-pest

The diamondback moth is considered to be a super-pest

Experts hope to record numbers once the diamondback moth caterpillars have hatched

Experts hope to record numbers once the diamondback moth caterpillars have hatched

Sites in eastern England and the Channel Islands have reported around 10 times the normal yearly total over a period of a few nights, with more than 1,000 reported over three evenings from a trap in Berkshire, and 310 in one night in Guernsey.

Diamondback moths have also been found in large numbers in trap samples from cabbage fields in Kirton, Lincolnshire, and Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, the experts said.

The scientists will examine the moths to see if they are resistant to pesticides, and find a way to tackle them.

Dr Steve Foster, senior scientist at Rothamsted Research, said: “We will aim to study the moths that are immigrating currently to the UK to identify whether they are resistant to the available insecticides and look for potential management methods.

Research scientist Chris Shortall said he has seen higher numbers than usual

Research scientist Chris Shortall said he has seen higher numbers than usual

“This could take up to a few weeks.”

He urged growers to speak to their authorised advisers on spraying their crops and said the experts would provide all scientific information when it became available.

Mark Parsons, head of moth conservation at Butterfly Conservation, said the recent migration of diamondback moths, are likely due to following winds from their breeding grounds, was unusual for its large numbers but not completely unexpected in the UK.

He said: “This is an occasional minor pest in this country on brassicas and it is possible given the numbers this year it may prove to be a bit of a nuisance, but we won’t know for a few weeks until any caterpillars have hatched.”

Source: Science Daily
Writer: KATIE MANSFIELD

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