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Scientists Unveil Genetically Modified Insects with ‘Kill Switch’ Genes

05.06.2015  |  01:54
Scientists Unveil Genetically Modified Insects with ‘Kill Switch’ Genes

Researchers say that what once was science-fiction is now a reality. Utilizing a gene-editing technology, scientists have developed a way to delete entire strains of DNA instead of just editing them.

At first glance, this would seem advantageous. If an insect was let loose in the wild, such as the millions of GM mosquitoes developed by Oxitec to be released in Brazil and Florida which are meant to control dengue fever (you can see a Youtube about the GM mosquitoes near the bottom of this article), humans could simply develop a ‘kill switch’ that would stop the GM mosquitoes from propagating.

However, it has already been shown that GM mosquitoes will likely interbreed with the non-GM mosquitoes. If the GM insects are developed with the ‘kill-switch,’ what will happen to the non-GM mosquitoes that have interbred with them? And more importantly, what will happen to other organisms that are infected with the ‘kill-switch’ technology inadvertently?

Christopher Voigt, associate professor of biological engineering at MIT, told RT:

“We could do a lot of good by being able to engineer an insect, for example, that goes out into the wild and has some disruptive capability over a disease, but we want to be able to control that, and that’s really difficult as soon as you go into a real setting.”[Emphasis added]

inside_article

Scientists Unveil Genetically Modified Insects with ‘Kill Switch’ Genes. 616.jpegThe video is glorifying, but I think you’ll be able to understand how this could be a serious risk.

In laboratory tests, scientists encoded GMO bacteria with this “kill switch”and they died within fifteen minutes of encountering the substance designed to trigger it, a sugar molecule called arabinose.

The findings of professor Voigt’s team, published in the journal Nature Communicationsjust weeks ago, have already attracted national attention. Hopefully it is alarm, and not simply egoistic excitement that this discovery is creating.

Do we really trust the $100 billion biotech industry to alter DNA so completely that a ‘kill switch’ could wipe out an organism in just a few minutes? This is not just a science fiction reality. It’s a science fiction nightmare.




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