With gene drives, we could delete’ an entire invasive species. Should we?

mosquito

In a windowless London basement, behind three sets of locked steel doors and a wall of glass, thousands of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes cling like Marvel supervillains to the sides of white mesh cubes…

If some future version of the mosquitoes were released, these deadly modifications could spread through the African tropics, crashing the population as they went. And because Anopheles is the primary African vector for the parasite that causes malaria, its collapse would likely take down malaria with it…

Known as a gene drive, the ability to force particular genes into future generations of an entire species only became available to humans with the development of CRISPR…

Many traditional conservationists were horrified by the prospect, yet other groups embraced it. The Gates Foundation made gene drive a centerpiece of its anti-malaria efforts…New Zealand is considering using a gene drive in its push to eliminate invasive rodents, weasels, and possums by 2050….

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With earlier-generation GMOs, such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, arguments often hinged on the potential for those genes to escape into the environment. Conservationists believed escape was inevitable, while corporations downplayed the risk, but nobody was suggesting that GMOs be let loose in nature—until now.

…In theory, a single lab could alter the entire planet. And the technology has arrived far quicker than our ability to grapple with its staggering implications.

Read full, original post: Deleting a Species

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