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Australia trials GM fruit fly

Australia will carry out trials of a genetically modified insect to see if it can control a destructive crop pest.

The engineered Mediterranean fruit flies possess a gene that prevents female flies from reaching adulthood.

When released into the environment, they mate with wild members of the same species and pass on the gene to their offspring, which die before they can cause damage to crops.

The flies have been produced by the British-based company Oxitec.

The Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australia (DAFWA) has now announced it will conduct an indoor assessment of the engineered fruit flies.

Eggs were imported from the UK and reared at DAFWA research facilities. Their potential for pest control will now be assessed in glasshouse trials.

A decision last year by Australian regulators to phase out the organophosphate insecticide fenthion has prompted a search for alternative methods of controlling the fruit pest.

Oxitec male flies are released to mate with wild female flies. When they do, they pass on a "self-limiting" gene which prevents female offspring from reaching adulthood.

This prevents the females from stinging fruit crops, or reproducing, thus shrinking populations of the fly in the release area.


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