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Out in the Field

Diamondback moths genetically engineered to reduce the wild population have been released in upstate New York, CNN reports. As Popular Mechanics notes, wild diamondback moths cause up to $5 billion in crop damage each year.

Researchers from Cornell University conducted mark-release-recapture field studies of diamondback moths that were engineered by the biotech firm Oxitec so that any female offspring die soon after they hatch, which eventually leads the population to dwindle. As they report this week in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, the researchers found that these genetically engineered moths acted similarly to the wild ones: they traveled similar distances and persisted in the area for similar lengths of time. Additionally, they found the engineered male moths were just as competitive in mating as wild ones.

"In agriculture … I think we can take the advantage of genetically engineered insects to control a major pest species," senior author Anthony Shelton, an entomology professor at Cornell, tells CNN.

Oxitec has also been pursuing genetically engineered mosquitoes in a bid to limit their population numbers and prevent the spread of the dengue and Zika viruses.