` Oxitec Still Pursuing Trial Release of GM Olive Flies in Spain


Oxitec Still Pursuing Trial Release of GM Olive Flies in Spain

Jan. 12, 2014
By Julie Butler

Recent News

Photo: Oxitec

British biotech firm Oxitec hopes a world-first field trial of its genet­i­cally-mod­i­fied olive fly will still go ahead in Cat­alo­nia this year despite recently with­draw­ing its appli­ca­tion for the exper­i­ment.

There were Span­ish media reports that the trial had been shelved amid mul­ti­ple obsta­cles and safe­guards sought by the Span­ish author­i­ties”, while GeneWatch UK claimed it was because Oxitec lacked answers to ques­tions on the poten­tial impacts of the insects on humans and the envi­ron­ment.“

But Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry told Olive Oil Times the with­drawal was noth­ing major” and came after Spain’s National Biosafety Com­mis­sion requested that preda­tor stud­ies be held. Oth­er­wise every­thing is very pos­i­tive,” he said.

The stud­ies, now under­way, will look at the impact of the olive fly on spi­der species and olive fly par­a­sitoids (which lay their eggs in the olive fly) and are expected to take a cou­ple of months.

We asked whether they (the com­mis­sion) would keep the file open or whether we should with­draw and resub­mit — and they pre­ferred the lat­ter. So we’ll com­plete the work in the first quar­ter of the year and then resub­mit. Hope­fully we will still be okay for a trial in the autumn,” Parry said.

Cata­lan author­ity was await­ing infor­ma­tion from Oxitec


The com­mis­sion has yet to reply to a request for com­ment but a spokes­woman for the Cata­lan Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Live­stock, Fish­eries, Food and Envi­ron­ment said Oxitec had advised it was with­draw­ing its appli­ca­tion in a let­ter dated Decem­ber 2.

The Cata­lan Biosafety Com­mis­sion had asked for the sub­mis­sion of addi­tional infor­ma­tion on the (trial) pro­posal, a request that had not been attended to,” she said.

Fears about impact on health and envi­ron­men­tal impacts

Oxitec’s pro­posal was to do the trial in col­lab­o­ra­tion with — and on land belong­ing to — the Cata­lan agri­cul­ture, food and aqua­cul­ture research insti­tute IRTA.

Parry said last year it would involve six plots on one site — each plot being about 0.14ha and hav­ing four trees — about 8 km from the port in Tar­rag­ona, one of Catalonia’s main olive oil pro­duc­tion regions.

The olive fly is one of the key pests affect­ing olive cul­ti­va­tion and is man­aged mainly via pes­ti­cides. Oxitec believes its mod­i­fied olive fly strain — called OX3097D-Bol and devel­oped about three years ago — offers a more effec­tive, chem­i­cal-free solu­tion.

But GeneWatch UK Direc­tor Helen Wal­lace said the group’s con­cerns about the exper­i­ment included the impact on the food chain, and on human and ani­mal health, of large num­bers of dead GM mag­gots in olives, and the envi­ron­men­tal impacts of releas­ing large num­bers of non-native GM flies which can­not be con­tained.”

Related News