While many people scrupulously strive to keep genetically modified food items from their dinner plates, the geneticists who are playing God continue to push in more GMOs. The British company Oxitec is all set to release genetically modified male olive flies into the fields for the biological control of the species. The insect, Bactrocera oleae, is a pest in olive plantations, significantly affecting oil production. Its transgenic variation is projected as a better alternative to chemical control measures, but haven’t we heard this story before?!
Biological control of pests is nothing new. Farmers from time immemorial have promoted naturally occurring enemies of common agricultural pests. Efforts to identify and introduce specific predators such as beetles and, in some cases, certain parasitic bacteria and fungi, have been successful pest control measures. In fact, the genetic material used in the development of Monsanto’s bt. cotton came from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that has been previously used as a spray for controlling many insect pests of cotton.
Bt. corn and Bt. potato were soon to follow, making tall claims of reducing harmful pesticide residue in food stuffs. Extensive field studies in China have shown that, within seven years, pesticide requirement in Bt. cotton fields have reached the same level as the amount used prior to the cultivation of the genetically modified cotton!