Are ‘Frankenflies’ a Safe Alternative to Chemical Pesticides?

We’re finally starting to see the ugly consequences of decades of unrestrained pesticide use. Direct and indirect exposure to pesticides has been linked to asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer. Yet we keep dumping them all over the place.

Why? Because to keep us swimming in meat and wheat, it’s necessary to grow a lot of food. Crop-eating pests are a liability, so farmers are willing to do just about anything to keep them at bay. Despite what the chemical companies tell us, the pesticides aren’t working, so now some say we should genetically modify the bugs themselves.

Scientists in Britain are seeking approval to unleash thousands of genetically-modified olive flies in Spain as part of a plan to develop an alternative to chemical pesticides. The olive fly (seen above) poses a huge threat to the nation’s olive crops, and the genetic experiment promises–at least in theory–to eliminate the pests without affecting other species.

In the experiment, pioneered by Oxford-based biotech firm Oxitec, genetically-modified olive fly males would be released into the environment, free to mate with wild olive females. The resulting offspring would be infertile, however, so eventually, all of the flies would die-off, leaving the olives free to flourish without the use of a toxic pesticide that has been banned in some countries.

I know what you’re thinking: “But what happens to all those tweaked-out male flies?! What if they get a little kinky and start spreading their seed to other types of flies?”

“Olive flies only mate with olive flies, only the targeted species would be affected,” explains Medical Daily. “Chemical pesticides, in contrast, linger and can affect a broad array of organisms.”

The experiment has been a success when trialed in greenhouse laboratories. Results suggest that the entire olive fly population could be wiped out in about two months, but things rarely go as well in nature as they do in the controlled setting of a lab.

Some fear that littering the Spanish countryside with the carcasses of GM olive flies could yield unforeseen negative consequences. If they’re ingested by other animals or decompose in the water supply, for instance, they might still release unknown toxins into the environment.

“Oxitec’s experiments should not go ahead until rules for safety testing and plans for labeling and segregation of contaminated fruits have been thoroughly debated and assessed,” Dr. Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, told the Daily Mail. “If these issues are ignored, growers could suffer serious impacts on the market for their crops.”

Furthermore, “Friends of the Earth, an environmental policy group, claims that some of the genetically modified insects could continue to breed. While Oxitec only plans to release males, up to 0.5 percent of the released insects are female, as the released mosquitoes are handpicked by scientists, prone to human error,” reports Medical Daily.

Image via alvesgaspar


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Joseph E Fasciani

This is my second comment on this topic. What I didn't mention earlier is that as we eliminate species --or even severely reduce them-- for the sake of a 'better' environment for humans and/or economic crops, we create new problems.

Never forget that evolution IS diversity, precisely because the planet/Gaia is seeking completion of a larger, more stable system than we can imagine.

No one knows what evolution's end is, yet we humans behave as though we are the be-all & end-all of the Creation. A very great deal of this comes from the poorly translated Hebrew of the story in Genesis re Adam & Eve. Hebrew is a connotative language, NOT a denotative one, so it --as are many others-- is very subtle and depends on context for its meang[s].

We were NOT given 'dominion' over the creation, but rather were placed in a symbiotic bondage-servitude one instead. Think of it this way: 'If you care for the Earth, it will care for you."

The word 'stewardship' is MUCH closer to what is meant. Now look about you: how well have we maintained that relationship?

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Mark F.
Mark F4 years ago

Don't do it... No Frankenflies!!!.... I have to say, reading Angela R. comment made my day.

Yvette S.
Yvette S4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Kyle N.
Kyle N4 years ago

Usually natural predators / parasites keep down the amount of harmful pests, but when they can't keep up, that's when insecticides are applied. GMO plants are best way to combat pests from getting a start, harming yields.

Nichola Mac D
Nichola Mac D4 years ago

No; no; no; no; NO......
when the f**k are people going to learn??? Stop messing with Mother Nature, when we do we ALWAYS get bitten in the ass....I truly am beginning to despair...

Christine W.
Christine W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Robert O.
Robert O4 years ago

I really don't think so. "Franken" anything has the potential to be harmful and cause more harm than the alleged good. Thanks Beth.