Lab Canada

Genomics partnership to develop virus for insect control

Toronto, ON – February 23, 2004 – Federal forest research and policy development group Great Lakes Forestry Centre and the Ontario Genomics Institute say they are partnering in the development of a virus for the control of an insect that causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to crops annually.

The increased adoption of safe, biological pesticides into integrated pest management programs in forestry and agriculture will result in an overall improvement in rural economies. In addition, these agents have the potential to improve forest protection and food production, to reduce environmental and health costs associated with the use of toxic chemical pesticides, and to create regional biopesticide enterprises.

The institute will invest in the development of a genetically modified virus for the biological control of the velvet bean caterpillar, Anticarsia gemmatalis, an insect that causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage annually to soybeans and other legume crops. Legumes are used in foods, food and feed additives, food and soap manufacturing processes, nutriceuticals, alkydresins, and drying oils (such as paints, varnishes, linoleum and printing inks). This group of viruses has a proven safety record against non-target organisms such as fish, birds and mammals.

“This research on the velvet bean caterpillar will be carried out with collaboration from Brazilian scientists,” says Errol Caldwell, research director with the Great Lakes Forestry Centre. “The technology was originally developed at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre with the spruce budworm and one of its specific viruses as the primary technology platform. The spruce budworm is one of the country’s most serious forest pests. Research at GLFC has demonstrated that it is possible to use an insect specific virus, modified to contain part of the insect’s own genome, to interfere with the molting process and cause feeding inhibition and premature death. It is this technology platform that will be used for the velvet bean caterpillar.”