Safe and fit genetically modified insects for pest control: from lab to field applications
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- Scolari, F., Siciliano, P., Gabrieli, P. et al. Genetica (2011) 139: 41. doi:10.1007/s10709-010-9483-7
Insect transgenesis is continuously being improved to increase the efficacy of population suppression and replacement strategies directed to the control of insect species of economic and sanitary interest. An essential prerequisite for the success of both pest control applications is that the fitness of the transformant individuals is not impaired, so that, once released in the field, they can efficiently compete with or even out-compete their wild-type counterparts for matings in order to reduce the population size, or to spread desirable genes into the target population. Recent research has shown that the production of fit and competitive transformants can now be achieved and that transgenes may not necessarily confer a fitness cost. In this article we review the most recent published results of the fitness assessment of different transgenic insect lines and underline the necessity to fulfill key requirements of ecological safety. Fitness evaluation studies performed in field cages and medium/large-scale rearing will validate the present encouraging laboratory results, giving an indication of the performance of the transgenic insect genotype after release in pest control programmes.