• Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering (Photo : Getty Images)

A group of researchers from China and the United States has made a breakthrough in the issue of pest resistance to genetically modified crops, according to a report by Xinhua.

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The new strategy, which can possibly solve the problem for good, was published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although some crops have been specifically engineered to produce agents that kill major pests, there has been a gradual evolution of pest resistance, particularly to insecticidal proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt.

According to the study, reversal to pest resistance can be achieved by cross-breeding genetically engineered cotton with conventional cotton. The first-generation offspring will then be planted to produce second-generation hybrid seeds.

By hybridizing the two types of cotton, the resistance of the pest called pink bollworm is reduced.

The researchers were able to come up with the conclusions through a study that took 11 years to complete. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the University of Arizona (UA) had to test over 66,000 pink bollworm specimens, sourced from the Yangtze River Valley.

“This study gives a new option for managing resistance that is very convenient for small-scale farmers and could be broadly helpful in developing countries like China and India,” Wu Kongming, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a statement.

Wu led the research conducted in China and also works as a professor at CAAS’s Institute of Plant Protection.

“For the growers in China, this practice provides short-term benefits,” said senior author Bruce Tabashnik, a professor at UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“It’s not a short-term sacrifice imposed on them for potential long-term gains. The hybrid plants tend to have a higher yield than the parent plants, and the second-generation hybrids cost less, so it’s a market-driven choice for immediate advantages, and it promotes sustainability.”