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article imageGM tobacco plants can trap pests

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2014 in Environment
Scientists have created genetically modified tobacco plants that have been engineered to produce pheromones that can trap pests.
As an alternative to industrial laboratories synthesizing pheromones to attract or repel crop pests, researchers have genetically engineered plants to do this work for them. With the new research, plant biologists report on genetically engineered tobacco plants that produce a moth sex pheromone. Once extracted from the plant, the pheromone can be used to trap male moths.
Commenting, on the research, Steve Seybold of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station in Davis, California, told Science Now that "It will change the way that commercial pheromone outfits do business and will significantly enhance the quality and potentially lower the cost of the products that they provide."
The argument in favor of the GM plants is that their use will reduce the use of harmful chemicals currently required for pheromone production. One of the lead researchers, Timothy Durrett, a biochemist at Kansas State University, said in a research note that: "What we demonstrated in this study is a more environmentally friendly approach that avoids the need to use toxic chemicals and eliminates hazardous byproducts from producing synthetic pheromones. The plant just handles everything."
However, there are many arguments against the use of GM crops. These arguments include: the effect of GM crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, and the role of GM crops in feeding the world population.
The research has been outlined in the journal Nature Communications, in an article titled "A plant factory for moth pheromone production".
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