AN OXFORDSHIRE tech firm which helped defeat the Zika virus in Brazil by releasing genetically-engineered mosquitoes is now using its revolutionary technology to save broccoli from moths.

Oxitec, based in Milton Park, has begun field trials on an experimental technique in the United States to control the hated diamondback moth.

This tiny insect is the word's most damaging pest of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale and costs farmers more than $4 billion every year.

In a bid to defeat the insatiable swarms, Oxitec is doing the exam same thing it did with Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Brazil: the firm is releasing millions of genetically-engineered version of the insects into the population which produce infertile offspring.

Because the females all get pregnant with dud eggs, they cannot give birth to a viable next generation, which Oxitec is hoping will decimate the population.

Oxitec has been able to start its first field trials after getting a green light from the US Department of Agriculture.

The field trial will be conducted at Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.

The university's Dr Tony Shelton said: "Self-limiting diamondback moths offer a new mode of action in the fight against this economically damaging pest.

"Importantly, this technology only targets this damaging pest species, and does not affect beneficial insects such as pollinators and biological control agents.

"Our previous greenhouse and field cage studies of this technology worked extremely well, and the USDA-approved evaluation will help us determine how well it works in the field."