The technique is a riff on an approach used to manage agricultural pests since the 1950s known as “sterile insect technique.” Using radiation, scientists made insects like the screwworm unable to produce viable offspring. By 1982, screwworm was eradicated from the US using this alternative to pesticides. In “Silent Spring” Rachel Carson suggested this approach was the solution to the dangers of harmful pesticides agricultural producers required to protect their crops. The problem was that it did not work on every insect—in many cases, it simply left irradiated insects too weak to compete for mates with their healthier kin.
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