Groningen researchers want to exterminate the housefly

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I have here before me what may be one of the dumbest press releases of the year from the University of Groningen.

A team of evolutionary biologists led by Leo Beukeboom is “well on the way to pinpointing [the gene that determines the male gender] in houseflies.”

According to the press release, the biologists are considering to use this knowledge for “developing ecofriendly methods of controlling this pestilential insect. The partner university in Göttingen, Germany has already bred sterile male specimens of the harmful Mediterranean fruit fly. Breeding sterile male houseflies may constitute an effective method for controlling these pathogenic insects in the future.”

Or, as the writer of the press release puts it in big, bold type, “evolutionary genetic research makes fly swatters superfluous”.

Maybe I don’t understand what they are saying and maybe they’re not saying it right, but it seems to me that disrupting an ecosystem is the exact opposite of ‘ecofriendly’. A fly swatter kills just the flies you can reach, and after half an hour of chasing flies through the house you might just consider doing a better cleaning job next time, but spraying pesticides or even eradicating an entire species (it is not clear to me what exactly the University of Groningen wants) seems to be a lot more invasive.

Do any of you have an explanation?

(Photo by Bbski, some rights reserved)

1 Comment »

  1. I hope that you guys like the smell of rotten cadavers (of mice, deer, birds, etc.), if there are no more maggots to degrade them.
    Higher in the food chain, numerous animals (mainly birds) depend on flies and maggots for their survival.
    Therefore, this “evolutionary genetic” eradication sounds like a double-dumb idea!

    Comment by Vincent — April 22, 2013 @ 7:48 am

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