ISLAND CROP DECIMATED BY GENE DRIVE FLIES
Scientists say no other theory seems to hold
After watching Border Security Australia, passengers always got off the plane feeling an extra bit anxious and jittery. Thoughts like ‘What if they say the dirt on my hiking boots smells funny? Or they confiscate my grandma’s old dusty portrait?’ often ran through peoples’ heads. Quarantine officers checking for foreign organic matter and unwelcome species used to have an irritating, but doable job. That reality has changed dramatically.
Ten years ago, the use of gene drive technology to eradicate the Zika virus was debated, but not implemented. A gene drive would drive a trait through an entire species and could even lead to complete eradication of the species. The consensus back then was that the uncertainty of the tech was too high and potential dangers too many. But it looks like someone has decided to risk it now.
After the wildly popular annual Sunrise Surprise dance fest on the island of Retrata, the whole sugarcane crop started crashing. Initial thoughts were that one of the festgoers may have accidently brought in some toxin which customs officials must have missed.
Yesterday scientists came out disputing this simplified explanation, saying that they have found a new, never-before-seen venom in Retrata’s Orange Spike flies. How the heck did this happen? There’s only one possible answer really, and it is so scary, no one even wants to say it out loud.
Somehow, a rogue gene has been introduced into the island’s population of flies, and has driven through the species. Now they’re a super destructive pest and sugarcane has no resistance to their poison. The only option might be to genetically modify the sugarcane to defend itself – but who knows what unintended consequences that might bring!
Links to related stories
- Genetically engineered bugs to fight malaria and Zika? Not so fast, experts say - The Washington Post, 8 June 2016
- The National Academies’ Gene Drive study has ignored important and obvious issues - The Guardian, 9 June 2016
- New Gene Editing Technology Can Eliminate Whole Species — Should We Use It? - Big Think, 11 June 2016
- "Gene drive." Learn the term. Because it could one day transform the world - Vox, 12 June 2016
- Creating human genomes and synthetic people, destroying entire species with gene drives - Phys.org, 13 June 2016
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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