Posts Tagged ‘fruit flies’




Genetically modified fruit flies deliberately engineered to kill themselves off could help save fruit crops by controlling the pest population without the need for pesticides. That’s the assertion of Oxitec fruit fly team leader Dr. Martha Koukidou, who spoke with www.freshfruitportal.com about the benefits of introducing these flies into the agricultural sector. In opposition is policy research and public interest group GeneWatch. Here, we take a look at both sides.

Mediterranean fruit fly trials are to be carried out in Brazil following official approval for the Oxitec project to take further steps for development.

The National Technical Biosafety Commission, a multidisciplinary body that advises the Brazilian government on biosafety matters, has given the green light for the Oxitec netted field experiments.

The U.K. pioneer in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops is now putting together further work before those trials actually happen.

Koukidou explains how the current line of defense against pests like fruit flies is insecticides, but the project’s aim is to reduce this usage and save crops as well.

The Oxitec GM fruit flies have a gene which interrupts female development and will only reproduce male offspring.

“We have developed a method whereby you release males in the environment and basically they seek and mate with the wild native females, but all of their daughters will die,” she tells http://www.freshfruitportal.com.

“If you eliminate the females from any given population you are causing the whole population to reduce because it doesn’t matter how many males you have out there, it’s really the females that matter.

“In the case of fruit flies, it is the females that cause damage to agriculture by laying eggs into a fruit, lets say an olive, a peach or whatever else and this egg will develop and hatch larvae, usually maggots; we don’t want to see that in the fruit.

The fruit then becomes prone to secondary infection as the pest tunnels its way through, leaving a hole that is open to bacteria.

“By releasing males and males only that means we do not cause any additional damage to agriculture because the males mate with the wild native females and they don’t affect anything else because the whole method is based on mating.

“They need to mate with the females and by sustained periodic releases, the whole population will drop.

“We believe that this is one of the most environmentally-friendly techniques one can use because it’s totally species specific, does not rely on any chemicals, and does not leave any residue in the environment, the method is self-limiting.”

Koukidou adds that Oxitec has carried out extensive cage separation trials using established wild populations of fruit flies that demonstrated ‘complete elimination of cage population in less than three months’.

“We had excellent outcomes; so the next step for us would be to take those strains into the field.

“We know the term GM causes controversy, however if one looks closely at the technology they will see that it is species specific, it does not affect any other species or anything else in the environment because it relies on mating. And of course we know by default that one species cannot mate with another.”

GeneWatch opposes Oxitec’s fruit flies

GeneWatch director Dr. Helen Wallace has a very different opinion, believing that it’s impossible to predict the long-term outcome possibilities of releasing genetically modified fruit flies into the environment and how, over a period of time, the pests will naturally evolve a resistance to dying off and quite possibly get into the food supply.

“A major concern is that the GM fruit flies are genetically programmed to die at the late larval stage and that will be when many of the flies are still inside when the female lays the eggs,” Wallace said.

“They (Oxitec) already have been approved trials which have not yet taken place, but if those trials take place they will be releasing a GM male to outnumber the wild population by at least a factor of ten to one so we’re talking about millions of GM flies being released and mating with the wild flies.

A key question for Wallace is ‘where will the female offspring that do not survive into adulthood end up?’ and is concerned one possibility could be the food supply.

“Obviously we are concerned about environmental impacts because we’re talking about complex eco systems and a method that is very different from the irradiated flies that they (Oxitec) like to compare it with; so the irradiated ones are sterile, these ones will reproduce and only the females die so male GM adults can survive for multiple generations and it’s almost inevitable that they will spread.

“The technology also uses the antibiotic tetracycline, this is widely used in industrial agriculture and you get high concentrations of it in the environment particularly in animal faeces for example.

“So there is a very real prospect that GM flies will find contaminated areas where they can breed normally and there’s also potential for resistance to develop as the flies evolve. It would be difficult to contain this if anything went wrong.”

Photo: GM sterilization on the horizon for fruit fly fight



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Discovery of fruit fly infested mangoes in one of the shipment from Pakistan in the United Kingdom (UK) has threatened import of Pakistani mangoes to the European Union this year. Concerned authorities in Pakistan had made bold claims that all the necessary measures have been taken to ensure quality control of the Pakistani mangoes in a bid to increase the export of the exotic fruit to EU in be presence of ban on Indian mangoes. The Department of Plant Protection (DPP) decided to stop exporting mangoes to UK and EU without hot water treatment with immediate effect.

UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on June 17 inspected a shipment of mangoes from Pakistan it was found infested with fruit fly. This is the first case of fruit fly infestation of Pakistani mangoes. If four more such shipments are found, EU will impose the ban on the import of Pakistani mangoes.

Department of Plant Protection (DPP) has taken precautionary measures to avoid any possible EU ban and have decided to export only those mangoes which have received the hot water treatment to kill all the fruit flies.

Pakistan earned about $25 million by exporting mangoes to EU during 2013 mango season. EU earlier had banned Indian mangoes and it is an opportunity for Pakistani mango producers to fill the gap with good quality and better tasting mangoes from Pakistan.

Source: newspakistan.pk
Publication date: 6/24/201

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Salman Siddiqui
Sunday, May 11, 2014
From Print Edition

KARACHI: The Pakistan Quarantine Department of Plant Protection (DPP) has so far declared only 15 farms of mangoes eligible to export the fruit to the Europe Union (EU) without hot water treatment, All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) reported on Saturday.

However, majority of the farms located in Sindh will still have to treat the fruit to kill flies, as the DPP has so far declared only one farm eligible in the province to export the fruit without the treatment to EU nations, Waheed Ahmed, spokesman of the association, said after attending a meeting summoned by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research in Islamabad the other day.

The export of the fruit is set to start from May 25, while Sindh is the first province in the country that picks mangoes. Punjab follows Sindh in picking and exporting mangoes, it was learnt.

The food secretary chaired the said meeting. Another participant of the meeting Seerat Asghar Joura said that the department had initially estimated to declare eligible about 100 farms for the export with the treatment.

Tariq Khan, deputy director of DPP, said that the process of the inspection and registration of farms had yet not been over in the country. “This may remain lasted till Punjab starts producing and exporting the fruit sometime in July,” he said.

Officials of the quarantine department, which is responsible to make sure exporting pest and fruit fly-free mangoes to the world, have visited 35 orchards in Sindh and 36 orchards in Punjab so far.

The department has approved only one farm in Sindh to export the fruit without hot water treatment, while other 34 could not export their fruit without giving the treatment, sources said.

While in Punjab, the department has approved 14 orchards, rejected three and asked remaining 19 orchards to improve their standards to export their fruit without the treatment, they said.

There are only four with the approved treatment plants. Durrani Associates own three of them. Babar Durrani of the associates said that his company was charging Rs20 per kilogramme for the treatment.

“The treatment helps exporter to earn up to 50 percent additional revenue against those who export their fruits without the treatment,” Durrani said.

He, who also attended the meeting, said that exporting pest- and fly-free mangoes to EU was a serious challenge instead of an opportunity. If the EU bans Pakistan like it banned Indian mangoes in April might result into halt of exports of the fruit to many other counties as well, he said.

Durrani said that the meeting resolved to export only quality fruit to EU. “All exporters at the meeting agreed to set their focus on quality instead of quantity to EU nations,” he said.

Ahmed of PFVA said that the ministry had also approved exporting mangoes into boxes of weight of two kilogrammes, three kg, four kg, and five kg, and banned export of the fruit in 1.5 kg of box.

“The box of 1.5 kg cannot accommodate big size mangoes, while there are always chances of fruit flies in small size mangoes,” he said.

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April 4, 2014

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is embarking on a new research program to help address one of the most significant biosecurity threats to Australian horticulture.

An innovative control initiative targeting Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) has been developed by Dr Olivia Reynolds and her team at the DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

“We have established an Area Wide-Integrated Pest Management (AW-IPM) program that incorporates the sterile insect technique (SIT), to specifically target the breeding cycle of this major pest,” Dr Reynolds said.

“SIT is a method of biological control, where we release large numbers of sterile insects that compete with fertile insects to mate, which effectively reduces the overall population. It is an environmentally benign and cost-effective control option.”

Dr Reynolds said Qfly feeds and breeds on a variety of fruit and vegetable crops and is recognised as one of the key biosecurity pests threatening horticulture in NSW and Australia.

“This new AW-IPM SIT program is not only a preventative control option but is intended to have a positive impact on society by improving the quality of horticultural products at a lower cost, while protecting the environment and human health,” Dr Reynolds said

“Chemical controls are increasingly coming under scrutiny due to environmental and health concerns and we have responded to the need to find alternate ‘softer’ in-field control options for Qfly by incorporating the SIT in an AW-IPM program.”

Dr Reynolds said similar programs world-wide have successfully incorporated the SIT to control fruit flies and include prevention, containment, eradication and suppression of the pests.

“This program will operate on several properties, growing mostly Summerfruit, in a uniquely geographically isolated area away from urban centres in south-eastern Queensland near the New South Wales border,” Dr Reynolds said.

“Such a program is directly relevant to many fruit growing regions, including those in NSW, such as parts of the Murray Valley who share a similar climate and have low Qfly pressure.

“In contrast, conventional control methods have a narrow focus protecting crops from direct attack by pests.”

Dr Reynolds said it’s hoped the program will deliver a reduction in the fruit fly population as well as a reduction in pesticide use.

“Other benefits of this project may include protection of the health of farm workers, reduced environmental costs through reduced insecticide residues in fruit, water reservoirs and soil and strengthening research and development support of the stone fruit industry,” Dr Reynolds said.

This project forms part of the SITPlus initiative led by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Horticulture Australia Limited, Plant and Food Research, DPI and Regions South Australia and NSW DPI. This project has been funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd using voluntary contributions from the ‘Trap Rock’ growers, and funds from the Australian Government.

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