Evolutionary biology and genetic techniques for insect control

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The requirement to develop new techniques for insect control that minimize negative environmental impacts has never been more pressing. Here we discuss population suppression and population replacement technologies. These include sterile insect technique, genetic elimination methods such as the release of insects carrying a dominant lethal (RIDL), and gene driving mechanisms offered by intracellular bacteria and homing endonucleases. We also review the potential of newer or underutilized methods such as reproductive interference, CRISPR technology, RNA interference (RNAi), and genetic underdominance. We focus on understanding principles and potential effectiveness from the perspective of evolutionary biology. This offers useful insights into mechanisms through which potential problems may be minimized, in much the same way that an understanding of how resistance evolves is key to slowing the spread of antibiotic and insecticide resistance. We conclude that there is much to gain from applying principles from the study of resistance in these other scenarios – specifically, the adoption of combinatorial approaches to minimize the spread of resistance evolution. We conclude by discussing the focused use of GM for insect pest control in the context of modern conservation planning under land-sparing scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-230
Number of pages19
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • fitness
  • genetic modification
  • release of insects carrying a dominant lethal
  • resistance
  • selection
  • sterile insect technique

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