Australian state considers genetic management of pests
As West New South Wales (NSW) grapples with devastating bird plague, the government is investing in groundbreaking genetic biocontrol research that could transform pest control in Australia.
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the NSW government will provide $ 1.8 million for the project to accelerate delivery of next-generation ‘gene drive’ technology to control future plagues.
“The government has invested $ 50 million in a range of supportive measures, not only to mitigate the impacts of the mice that are currently crawling across much of New South Wales, but also to create options to ensure that we reduce the impact of future population peaks, ”he said on Thursday.
Until now, farmers had to rely on baiting and trapping to control mouse infestations, but the government is now “accelerating critical research to bring mouse control into the 21st century,” he said. declared.
The three-year genetic biocontrol research program will identify fast-acting gene drives that are designed to spread an inherited trait through a population at above normal rates.
Mr Marshall said he would also study the transferability of the technology to other pest species such as black rats, rabbits and feral cats using advanced computer modeling.
“Using targeted gene drives, scientists aim to interrupt the reproductive cycle of mice and keep populations at manageable levels,” he said.
“There has to be a better way. That’s why we support science to provide a solution.
The research will test two population control strategies and recommend at least one for future removal of mice.
The “X-shredder” approach eliminates sperm carrying the X chromosome, producing more male than female offspring.
The “female infertility” approach diffuses a genetic modification that would eventually make women infertile.
Lead researcher Professor Paul Thomas of the University of Adelaide says both approaches have been shown to be able to suppress mice using sophisticated computer simulations.
Mr Marshall said the advanced solutions meant that future mouse outbreaks could be extinguished before they started, and that there was also the possibility of transferring the solutions to other species such as rats, rabbits and wild cats.
“The management of pests in NSW and across Australia could be forever changed,” he said.
The research will be led by the University of Adelaide, CSIRO and the Center for Invasive Species Solutions.
Meanwhile, the government is awaiting approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Drugs Authority for the use of bromadiolone – a chemical that Mr Marshall has likened to “napalm.”
However, experts have warned that the poison is making its way through the food chain, posing a danger to pets, wildlife and anything that attacks mice.