New methods for the production of pyrethrin biopesticides

Wageningen University and Research Centre is seeking commercial partners interested in producing pyrethrin biopesticides by means of microbial production platforms and/or plants by an assembly of cloned biosynthetic enzymes.


The daisy flowers of pyrethrum, Tanacetum cinerariifolium (earlier species name: Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium), accumulate a group of potent insecticidal metabolites called pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are used in many biopesticide sprays for agricultural and household use, fogging products against mosquitoes and in some pet products. They have been used as a safe household insecticide for over 100 years and are even permitted in organic agriculture. Pyrethrins act both as a potent insecticide and, at lower concentrations, as an insect repellent. Although the market for pyrethrins has been taken over by synthetic pyrethroids, there is still a strong and rising worldwide demand for natural pyrethrins when pesticide residues are a concern.

The invention

Wageningen UR scientists have identified the genes encoding crucial missing enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway leading to chrysanthemic acid and pyrethrins. As a result the entire monoterpene branch of the pathway can now in principle be completed in a microorganism. Specifically, the pathway from the general precursor dimethylallyldiphosphate (DMAPP) to chrysanthemoyl-CoA was elucidated and two novel genes were discovered. Considering the potent insecticidal and insect repelling activity of pyrethrins and their low toxicity to humans, the present invention provides means for the in vitro, or in vivo, or in planta production of type I pyrethrins or intermediate compounds.


Development of genetically modified plants and/or microbial production platforms for contained, continuous and direct production of the potentially insecticidal pyrethrins or pyrethrin derivatives. Genetic markers for the selection and identification of pyrethrin producing plants.


  • Provides unique access to biosynthesis genes for the production of chrysanthemic acid and pyrethrins
  • May simplify the production of safe, biological bio-insecticides
  • May form the basis of a continuous, efficient production process
  • Production can be optimised and improved to cut costs
  • Support in marker assisted breeding for improved pyrethrin production in plants

Stage of development

Development phase – laboratory tested. Yeast and plants were transformed with the genes and they successfully produced the target compounds.