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Sweetener Pesticide

June 5, 2014

A low-calorie sweetener could double as an insecticide for fruit flies.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sweet for people; deadly to flies. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

truvia scb

(Susanne Clara Bard)

The popular low calorie sweetener Truvia is safe for people, but according to a study in the journal PLOS One, it’s deadly to fruitflies. Drexel University biologist Daniel Marenda said his son Simon first discovered the phenomenon three years ago, working on a sixth grade science fair experiment into the effects of sugar substitutes on fruitflies.

DANIEL MARENDA (Drexel University):

And after about five or six days he came back and said “Dad, all of the flies in the Truvia vial are dead.” And I thought, that’s kind of interesting, right? So I thought, we should repeat this experiment.

HIRSHON:

Marenda and his colleagues at Drexel confirmed the finding. Now they’d like to figure out how the compound kills the flies and how it affects other insects. The goal is a product that’s completely safe for people and pets, yet irresistible and deadly to pests. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.