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March 20, 2007

GM to Save the Planet!

What wonders science can perform. Looks like genetic modification can save millions upon millions from a early death:

The multimillion-dollar effort to eradicate one of the world's deadliest diseases received a significant but controversial boost yesterday when scientists announced the creation of genetically modified mosquitoes that cannot pass on malaria.

Trials revealed that the GM mosquitoes could quickly establish themselves in the wild and drive out natural malaria-carrying insects, thereby breaking the route through which humans are infected.

Sweeties and geek points to the first person who spots an anti-GM campaigner arguing that no, it is better that million die than we release frankenmonsters into the wild.

March 20, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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I'm not rabidly anti-GM by any means, and certainly not on idealogical grounds, but I really think there's high potential for the law of unintended consequences here.

Will the parasite rapidly evolve into something even worse to counter this threat ? Will mosquitos suddenly displace other species now they live longer. Will some other undesirable species suddenly grow in numbers now they're not population constrained by malaria ?

I think we'd want a much better understanding of the impact on the total ecosystem before tampering at this level.

Posted by: Infoholic UK | Mar 20, 2007 11:53:00 AM

We had the answer to malaria 40 years ago. It was called DDT and a bunch of shouty hippies ensured millions died needlessly because of their ideology.
Do you really think these same shouty hippies are going to let us move the goal posts so easily?

Posted by: F0ul | Mar 20, 2007 12:11:31 PM

I agree with Infoholic. I’m a fan of biotechnology and I think it has the potential to make the lives of millions of people better. But even I think we should be carefull here.

Releasing a new species into an environment were it is possible it should not belong can be dangerous. We are not talking about genetically modified plants here, things we should be able to keep under control. But a new breed of insects releasing in the wild? If anything wrong happens, could we still keep it under control? And by the way I think there are alternatives available to combat malaria.

I’m not saying we should not do it. 300 million lives saved, that’s a hell of an advantage in a cost-benefit analysys. As is the elimination of the need for insecticides. But some caution seems to be justified.

Posted by: ivan | Mar 20, 2007 12:24:40 PM

I for one welcome our new GM mosquito overlords...

Oh sorry this isn't /. is it?

Ivan, we can't even control GM plants once their pollen goes wild, how could we /hope/ to control an insect?

Posted by: zorro | Mar 20, 2007 12:50:07 PM

Cane toads. On the other hand, enviro-toads. Perhaps we could start the experiment somewhere that the mozzies are unlikely to spread from. Some remote Pacific island, perhaps, where they can be nuked if it all goes wrong. Australia?

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 20, 2007 2:18:37 PM