Oxitec says its modified male diamondback moths, carrying a lethal gene, could be released into the countryside, which would cause their offspring to die almost immediately — with a resulting fall in their numbers and increased vegetable yields for farmers, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
The company said it would like to start trials next year but the proposal faces stiff opposition from organizations concerned about risks to wildlife and to human health.
“Mass releases of GM insects into the British countryside would be impossible to recall if anything went wrong,” Helen Wallace, the director of GeneWatch UK, said.
“Changing one part of an ecosystem can have knock-on effects on others in ways that are poorly understood,” she said. “This could include an increase in different types of pest. Wildlife that feeds on insects could be harmed if there are changes to their food supply.”
Using GM insects to kill the pests that prey on food crops is better for the environment than chemical sprays, Oxitec Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said.
There is a demand from farmers for the technology and Oxitec is developing a number of GM insects for use in Britain and around the world to protect crops, Parry said.