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From Mosquito to Moth

Oxitec, the firm that designed mosquitoes to limit the spread of the Zika virus, now wants to test an engineered moth, Wired reports.

The diamondback moth, which chomps down on vegetables, has become resistant to a number of chemical pesticides. To potentially combat this, Oxitec has developed a male diamondback moth that its says could eradicate the population. Oxitec's Neil Morrison tells Wired that the engineered moths contain a gene that prevents female moths from reaching adulthood. That way, he adds, the company would only release only male moths, which don't eat crops, and when they mate with wild female moths, no female offspring survive and the population eventually dies out. The company also inserted a gene into the moths that make them glow red under UV light so that it can tell them apart from unmodified moths.

Wired adds that the company is seeking USDA approval to conduct a field test with its moths in upstate New York and says that its application has garnered hundreds of public comments. Even if the field test is approved, Wired notes that the company may find it difficult to find an area willing to allow the moths to be released — the same issue it ran into in Florida when trying to test its modified mosquito there.