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The future of crop protection? GM plant grows insect sex pheromones as alternative to crop pesticides

Scientists have discovered how to genetically modify the camelina plant to produce pheromone precursors that can control agricultural insect pests without the use of pesticides, Joan ConrowofCornell Alliance for Sciencewrites in an article published by Genetic Literacy Project (GLP).

Conrow points out that pheromones and other semiochemicals are among the next generation of sustainable insect controls. They protect crops by repelling pest insects from plants, preventing them from mating or otherwise manipulating their behaviors. This approach protects the environment, while eliminating the problems of insecticide residues on food and insects developing resistance to pesticides.

Currently, insect sex pheromones are produced synthetically a costly process that uses either petroleum or plant oils as feedstock to provide the hydrocarbon chains to build upon. Large volumes of solvents are also needed to create intermediary compounds, resulting in chemical waste byproducts. By starting instead with precursors in the GM seed oil, researchers are able to eliminate most of the solvent needs and about 80 percent of the chemical waste. Using the oil-rich camelina plant as a biofactory also significantly shortens the process and reduces the high cost of producing pheromones.

The revolutionary research is being done by ISCA, Inc., a green agricultural technology company based in Riverside, Calif., in collaboration with Lund University in Sweden.

Pheromone controls are the future of crop protection, and ISCAs breakthrough biological pheromone synthesis will propel agriculture into a more lucrative and sustainable enterprise, said ISCA CEO Agenor Mafra-Neto.

Read Joan Conrow‘s full article on this development on Genetic Literacy Project’s website here.
Photo: Courtesy GLP

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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