Ag Biotech Minus the Genetic Modification Part

Not all agricultural biotech involves genetic modification.

Check out this press release from Genome British Columbia, about a research project based at my alma mater, the University of British Columbia, that will use biotech tools to attempt to develop a molecular test for fecundity (egg-laying capacity) among females of a species of predatory mites that is used to control another species of mites that feeds on commercial crops:
Genomic tools will help facilitate the shift to greener crop protection

Pesticide-free crops are one step closer to reality with the launch of a Genome BC research project that will test the egg-laying capacity of predatory mites as a method of standardizing and improving biocontrol programs.

Two-spotted spider mites are a continuing plague to growers in BC and around the world, where they feed on and damage greenhouse vegetables and ornamental flowers and plants. But current biocontrol methods for controlling spider mites, though widely diverse, are not fully meeting the needs of growers.

Synthetic pesticides are losing popularity among ecologically conscious consumers and growers alike. Alternative methods rely on the use of predatory insects and mites – natural enemies of spider mites.

The predatory mite, P.persimilis, (Pp) is the most frequently released natural enemy of spider mites used for the control of these pests on greenhouse and outdoor crops. Although they have been commercially produced for many years, the batch-to-batch quality of Pp populations, as defined by their egg-laying potential, remains inconsistent.

Some individuals and groups claim to be anti-biotech quite generally: they think all biotech is a bad idea. But such a position runs aground on the sheer diversity of ways in which the basic tools of biotech can be applied.

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About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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