According to Wired, the fall armyworm caterpillar is native to the Americas, but now wreaks havoc on crops around the world. It, for instance, eats 17.7 million tons of corn each year, it says.
To combat this wave of destruction, Oxitec has developed male armyworms that contain a self-limiting gene that, when they mate with a female worm, lead to eggs that produce an overwhelming amount of a particular protein, Wired writes. Because of this, it adds, the egg cannot make other needed proteins and dies. Oxitec has begun to test the worm in small field trials in Brazil and hopes to ramp its studies next year, Wired says.
But their approach, like in teh case of their genetically engineered mosquitoes, isn't without critics, Wired adds. For the mosquitoes, residents in Florida where the mosquitoes have recently been released, voiced concerns about unanticipated effects of modified mosquitoes on people and the environment. Similarly, for the armyworms, critics say that getting rid of it may just enable other pests to move in and that a broader, integrated pest control approach is needed.