As spring begins to mature into summer it’s time to think about pesticides again. Unfortunately, we all know that most commercial bug-repellants are very toxic and certainly should not be used in or near a kitchen, picnic, food, children, etc. In our area in southern California, fruit flies are a constant battle during the summer months. As it turns out, science has discovered a possibly non-toxic solution (more on that later) in one of the most least expected places…Truvia. For those of you not sure what Truvia is (perhaps it sounds familiar though) it is a sugar substitute sold by the food giant Cargill Inc.
Truvia, is a sugar alcohol composed of about 99.5% erythritol. Though it is made from an extract of the stevia plant, it is not stevia. Unfortunately, erythritol is often also made from GMO corn (Cargill recently settled a lawsuit for claiming Truvia is “natural” when it is derived from a fermentation process where they feed yeast GMO corn). However, there are natural food companies making a form of erythritol that is organic. But in general, the safety of consuming sugar alcohol’s is still being debated. Let’s hope so because the true story here is not about sugar substitutes, but about pesticides.
As it turns out, Truvia is a very effective pesticide! A recent study (even highlighted on CBS news) recently confirmed that fruit flies die shortly after eating Tuvia.
"The more you get [fruit flies] to consume erythritol, the faster they die," Sean O'Donnell, a professor of biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told CBS News.
The hope is to be able to develop this into a pesticide that potentially could be used on crops in a large scale that in the end would be safe for human consumption (or safer at least). Other sweeteners were compared to Truvia, but none other killed the fruit flies. It was also dose dependent, meaning, the more they ate the faster they died. Further causality was proven by the way they died. The flies showed motor control problems (they were unable to climb as well) while the flies who ate other sweeteners did not have these motor control problems.
Let’s hope this leads to better farming practices and safer food in our future!