Pentagon’s plan to engineer insects to protect food crops sparks fears of misuse as bioweapons

| | November 12, 2018
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Jane Polston and I are walking over to some greenhouses at the University of Florida, where she’s a professor. She wants to show me how viruses infect plants …. We step inside the greenhouse, where I see a smaller chamber with walls of fine mesh and six tomato plants inside. They don’t look too healthy. Their leaves are wilting. “This is our tomato yellow leaf-curl virus colony,” Polston says.

[Editor’s note: The author of this story, Dan Charles, is describing his meeting with Jane Polston.]

The tomato leaves look like they’re covered with dandruff. But when Polston reaches in and moves one of the plants, the white particles come alive. They’re tiny flies — whiteflies. They’re also infected. “Because they’re reared on these infected plants, I think probably all of them will have virus in them,” Polston says

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What’s going on in that greenhouse is the brainchild of Blake Bextine …. at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) …. DARPA is funding Polston and several other groups …. using a different combination of insect and virus.

The viruses will be genetically modified so that they carry new packages of DNA …. to help the plants — perhaps help corn survive a drought, for instance. But all this talk …. sounds disturbing to Silja Voeneky at the University of Freiburg, in Germany …. Her specialty is …. the Biological Weapons Convention …. The BWC bans the use of living organisms …. as weapons of war.

Read full, original article: Is The Pentagon Modifying Viruses To Save Crops — Or To Wage Biological Warfare?

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