Oxitec Ltd

Diamond Back Moth (Plutella Xylostella)



Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is the biggest global pest of brassica crops. The diamondback moth (DBM) is one of the world’s significant agricultural pests, costing farmers billions of dollars every year. This moth pest, also called Plutella xylostella, is a non-native species in the USA. It feeds on brassica crops like canola (oilseed) and broccoli and it is notorious for its ability to develop resistance to insecticides. This means that new methods of pest control are needed that are both effective and environmentally friendly.

Benefits of Oxitec’s approach

Oxitec is an award-winning pioneer in insect pest control with an approach that is both effective and environmentally friendly. We genetically engineer insects to use them as a tool to control populations of their own species.

Studies in the lab and greenhouse cages have shown that Oxitec DBM can be very effective at reducing pest DBM populations. For example in cage studies the pest populations were effectively controlled within 8 weeks.

The approach is toxin-free and does not target beneficial predators or insects.

The male moths only mate with their own species so the genes don’t spread. And the insects die out so the released insects and their genes do not persist in the environment.

Reducing reliance on insecticides will help beneficial insects, like bees, to thrive.

How the Oxitec Diamondback Moth (OX4319L) works

Oxitec male moths are released to mate with female moths of their own species. They pass on a ‘self-limiting’ gene that prevents the female offspring from reaching adulthood. This reduces the number of reproductive females and the pest population in the release area shrinks. The Oxitec DBM also have a fluorescent marker (DsRed2) to identify the Oxitec moths and distinguish them from wild ones. This colour marker is used to monitor control of the pest population.

Next steps

The Oxitec DBM has been evaluated in lab and greenhouse studies in the UK and US and is now ready for further evaluation in field trials. The first field trials are planned in the US and approval for such a trial has been approved by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services, a part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), following extensive review. This regulatory review has also included a public consultation process. Field cage studies were conducted in the summer of 2015, and data analysis is under way. We are planning to conduct further field trials in the summer of 2016.

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