Innovative Precision Biological Solution Targets Destructive Fall Armyworm to Help Farmers Globally to Control This Damaging Pest and Increase Food Production
OXFORD, England, Oct. 16, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON), a leader in the engineering and industrialization of biology to improve the quality of life and health of the planet, today announced the achievement of a key milestone in the development of its innovative solution for control of the agricultural pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in collaboration with a leading agricultural company. Intrexon Crop Protection’s targeted, biologically-based approach utilizing Oxitec’s self-limiting insect technology holds substantial promise to control this major agricultural pest and prevent widespread crop losses, thereby benefitting farmers and enhancing food sustainability.
Native to the Americas where it has caused significant damage for decades, fall armyworm (FAW) invaded Africa in 2016 and has rapidly spread to at least 28 countries. According to a Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International report, FAW has caused an estimated $13.8 billion in losses of maize, sorghum, rice and sugarcane in Africa. This extensive cost and economic impact to these African countries does not take into account the many additional crops FAW has been known to feed on, as well as resulting seed loss for subsequent growing seasons.
“Fall armyworm is a growing problem in many areas of the world and conventional approaches are increasingly insufficient to address its control,” said Sekhar Boddupalli, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Intrexon’s Food Sector. “We are pleased by the continued progress in this program and believe our pioneering solution can counter increasing resistance of this devastating pest to conventional chemical insecticides and transgenic crops expressing insecticidal proteins.”
Feeding on the leaves and stems of over 80 different plant species including many economically important crops, the trans-Atlantic expansion of FAW and its potential to reach new continents such as Europe and Asia represent a significant threat to global food security. These pests reproduce rapidly, with each female laying up to 1000 eggs within 2 weeks. FAW also have the ability to fly up to 100 kilometers on a daily basis when they reach adulthood.
While genetically modified crops and chemical pesticides have been employed in the Americas as a means of FAW control, resistance to both is an increasing concern necessitating the evaluation of alternative methods. The self-limiting fall armyworm under development contains a gene passed on by engineered males that specifically prevents female offspring from reaching adulthood, thereby reducing wild FAW pest populations and minimizing the risk of FAW spreading quickly over long distances.
Simon Warner, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Oxitec added, “Current crop protection solutions are facing challenges such as rising resistance in pests as well as amplified public concerns over residues and environmental impacts. We are pleased with the progress we have made in achieving this key milestone for our eco-friendly solution against the fall armyworm that is devastating to farmers and is wreaking havoc on agricultural-based economies across the globe.”
Like other targeted approaches, Intrexon’s ground-breaking technology affects only the damaging insect species and avoids the off-target effects of sprayed pesticides to beneficial insects and the broader ecosystem. Intrexon Crop Protection’s self-limiting insect platform has already been tested in trials against a number of major agricultural pests, including the Diamondback moth and the Mediterranean fruit fly, and has been shown to substantially suppress pest populations and increase marketable crop yield.
With this achievement, Intrexon received a milestone payment and its collaboration on the self-limiting fall armyworm continues its advancement in development.
About Intrexon Corporation
Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON) is Powering the Bioindustrial Revolution with Better DNA™ to create biologically-based products that improve the quality of life and the health of the planet. The Company’s integrated technology suite provides its partners across diverse markets with industrial-scale design and development of complex biological systems delivering unprecedented control, quality, function, and performance of living cells. We call our synthetic biology approach Better DNA®, and we invite you to discover more at www.dna.com or follow us on Twitter at @Intrexon, on Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Intrexon, Powering the Bioindustrial Revolution with Better DNA, and Better DNA are trademarks of Intrexon and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
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