I would dearly love to replace pesticides. We are dumping billions of pounds of these toxic agents onto our planet in order to grow the crops that we need to feed a growing population. Resistance to pesticides is marching inexorably up from South America, and these crop pests that destroy crops are becoming resistant to these chemicals, so we put more out.
Now imagine this. You’ve got pests — insects — have to have sex to mate, right? And it’s their caterpillar — so you have moths that go and eat corn — it’s their caterpillars that eat corn. So if you can interfere with insect sex, you don’t have caterpillars. And if you don’t have caterpillars, you don’t have damage to the crop. So how do insects find each other in a field? They emit little Chanel Number 5 plumes. Tiny, tiny bits of molecules that go out into the air and then that brings the male to find the female. So imagine, you have a bottle of this Chanel Number 5 and you just spray it around the field. You confuse the males and they fly around and they can’t find her. They know she’s there, but they can’t find her. Then they don’t mate and then you don’t have crop damage.
Now this Chanel Number 5 is a very specific molecule invented by the insects. We know its chemical structure. And unfortunately, it’s really expensive to make if you do it chemically. But we invented ways to use enzymes and biology and chemistry to make these things very inexpensively. So now today we have 75 people in Santa Monica who are working on implementing this in Indonesia, South America, Mexico — white corn in Mexico, vegetables and corn in South America, rice in Indonesia — so that you would be able to use this organic, non-toxic mode of pest control for agriculture.