❝ A “gene drive” is a new technology that gives us the ability to change an entire species at will. It’s a bit tricky to grasp how this technology works, but we owe it to future generations to understand this stuff because gene drives are a freaking big deal.
A new TED talk provides a painless way to learn. It’s delivered by the exemplary journalist Jennifer Kahn:
❝ A well-crafted gene drive could push disease-carrying mosquitoes to extinction in one year — possibly eliminating Zika virus and malaria, not to mention yellow fever and other diseases. The technology also has the potential to wipe out invasive species like kudzu and lionfish. In agriculture, gene drives could turn superweeds back into docile weeds, and eliminate pests that farmers usually spray with insecticide…
Except that the power of gene drives makes them frightening. To some. Some people are still afraid of electricity in any application.
Once a gene drive gets into a wild population it spreads relentlessly. Wipe out all the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic and you might wind up wiping out out the original population in the Indian Ocean. Most worrisome of all, they could be used for bioterrorism.
❝ …Weighing the risks and benefits, we have to consider the dangers of inaction as well as the dangers of action. “Humans have a tendency to assume the safest option is to preserve the status quo, but that’s not always the case,” she says. “Gene drives have risks and those need to be discussed. But malaria exists now and kills a thousand people a day. To combat it we spray pesticides that do grave damage to insects and other species including amphibians and birds.”
Bona fide scientists are conservative enough to spend time sufficient to grow hair on an egg – discussing pros and cons. The discussion on eradicating malaria-parasite-bearing mosquitoes has been going on for a spell. It doesn’t kill as many white people as smallpox did; so, folks feel they have lots of wiggle room. Whether they’re conscious of it or not.
And a barely-science-literate portion of the American Left still gets their knickers in a bunch over anything that has the four-letter word “gene” in any part of the discussion. They may not be joined at the hip with fundamentalist creationists; but, inside discussions filled with two columns of ignorance, the fear generated is the same.
Watch the video. Read a bit. Please.