TWN Biotechnology & Biosafety Series 16

Buzz or Bust for Genetically Engineered Insects?

By Edward Hammond

Publisher: TWN
ISBN: 978-967-5412-86-8
Year: 2013   No. of pages: 32
14.5cm x 21cm

About the Book

Venturing into a potentially lucrative new field, British company Oxitec – better known for its efforts to commercialize genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes – is now seeking to use similar technologies in the commercial application of GE insects in agricultural pest control. The firm claims that reproductive defects genetically engineered into agricultural insect pests can help suppress pest populations. Oxitec has claimed broad patents related to the specific techniques used in the GE insects, which cover a wide range of insects and even other types of animals.

However, as this paper reveals, this technology suffers from several practical shortcomings which could not only curtail its effectiveness but also exacerbate the very pest problem it aims to address. In addition, serious concerns have been raised over the potential environmental and health risks related to the release of GE insects into the wild.

All these considerations must prompt a rethink of the use of GE insects, especially in light of successful advances made by non-GE approaches to agricultural pest control.

About the Author

Edward Hammond directs Prickly Research (, a research and writing consultancy based in Austin, Texas, USA. He has worked on biodiversity and infectious disease issues since 1994. From 1999 to 2008 Hammond directed the Sunshine Project, an international non-governmental organization specializing in biological weapons control. Hammond was Programme Officer for the Rural Advancement Foundation International (now the ETC Group) from 1995 to 1999. He holds MS and MA degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was an Inter-American Foundation Masters Fellow.


Chapter 1.        Introduction                                                         

Chapter 2.        Patent Portfolio

Chapter 3.        Oxitec and Sterile Insect Technique

Chapter 4.        Oxitec’s GE Insects: Worms, Flies and Miners

Chapter 5.        Practical Impediments

Chapter 6.        Relationship with Other Companies

Chapter 7.        Conclusion                                                           


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