Gene-altered moth trial in Geneva raises hopes… and worries

It seems like the stuff of science fiction: Genetically engineering a species to die before it can reproduce.

But field tests of a gene-altered type of moth are taking place now at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. It’s a pesticide-free attempt to control invasive diamondback moths — an insect that devours crops like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Cornell University received a permit to execute the world’s first open-air trail of the genetically engineered diamondback moth (GE Moth) with promise of solving a worldwide problem.

“It costs $4 to $5 billion a year globally to manage this pest,” said Anthony Shelton, a Cornell University researcher who’s been studying the species for 40 years. “If you can manage it without using insecticides that can affect pollinators and other non-target organisms, that’s a real advantage.”

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