US Military Agency Funding Genetic Extinction Technologies
According to recent news reports, the U.S secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has become the world’s largest funder of “gene drive” research. Investing 100 million dollars in genetic extinction technologies.
The investment has been made to fund research into extinction technologies that could wipe out malarial mosquitoes, invasive rodents or other species.
Whilst this reported research is said to be solely focusing on pest control. With the goal of using gene editing tools to manipulate DNA strands for preventing pandemics. There is concern that these genetic extinction technologies could also be used to create powerful bioweapons.
A spokesperson for Darpa has dismissed such fears referring to them as “all fantasy”. However, there is also further concern surrounding the use of such technologies. UN experts have expressed their concern about the unknown long-term effects on the environment that could be irreversible.
According to the Guardian, the co-director of the ETC group has also made the following statement.
“The dual-use nature of altering and eradicating entire populations is as much a threat to peace and food security as it is a threat to ecosystems,” he said. “Militarisation of gene drive funding may even contravene the Enmod convention against hostile uses of environmental modification technologies.”
How Do Genetic Extinction Technologies Work?
Genetic extinction technologies involve the process of editing DNA genes in species. For example, as mentioned earlier where the reports related to the editing of mosquito genes.
The gene editing technologies used to do this is known as CRISPR gene-editing technology. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. This method is used by scientists when they cut and paste DNA at specific points to alter the DNA. This concept came from the study of bacteria, which protect themselves by cutting out invading viruses DNA and inserting it into their own. Then replicating the new sequences to prevent future viral invasions.
What Risks Does CRISPR Pose?
We mentioned earlier that many people are concerned about the potential risks that gene editing technologies could pose. Gene editing is a technology that could offer many benefits but at the same time mutating genes could also have negative effects.
Such technology could be used to eliminate genetic defects associated with an inheritable disease. It could also be used to alter genes to protect us against future disease or diseases.
However, do we really know enough about the potential long-term effects of playing with nature?
Are we playing with fire?
Then there’s the possibility of genetic enhancement when used to modify or change a person’s appearance, or physical or mental capabilities. A popular phrase that refers to this type of genetic manipulation is designer babies.
The subject of genetic enhancement certainly fuels the debate as to whether using such technologies is moral or ethical.
Genetic Extinction Technologies Conclusion
For some such a technology is groundbreaking laying the foundations for curing diseases such as cancer and diabetes. For others, it’s a dangerous attempt to play with mother nature and evolution of the world as we know it. Then there is the concern surrounding the possible misuse of such technologies for biological warfare. Whilst this technology is in the hands of governments and scientists we may have little control other whats really going on.