Tag Archives: genetically engineered

Residents of the Florida Keys Resist the Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitos

Almost like the plot of a dystopian horror movie a UK biotech company, called Oxitec, would like to release genetically engineered mosquitos in the Florida Keys.  I mean tell me that you can’t envision the movie how this movie (if it were one) would unfold.  In an act of man’s hubris that he is the master of nature and can thus use his mastery to make life better for everyone through engineering disease out of mosquitos.  The mosquitos are released and appear to succeed in what they are engineered for until something goes horribly wrong (queue dramatic music).  Then there would be some sort of mutation which causes some sort of catastrophe — I’m thinking those bitten by the mutated mosquitos turn into zombies — the Army is called in, there would be a bunch of zombie horror carnage, and the attempt to eliminate the mosquitos, that appears to succeed, as the movie closes the camera zooms in on mosquito larvae growing is some standing water, thus setting up the potential for sequels.  It basically writes itself, doesn’t it?  Just invite me to the premier, that’s all I ask.

Well, despite the many internet themed zombie apocalypse stuff that made its rounds after a Miami Florida man gnawing the face off of another man, as well as similar gruesome events, I feel pretty safe in saying that I don’t think these mosquitos will cause people to turn into zombies, nor will any other bad thing happen should someone get bitten by one of these genetically engineered mosquitos.  According to the company the mosquitos that would be released are all males, which do not bite, and have essentially been neutered, so they cannot reproduce.  These now flying eunuchs are meant to bring a dramatic reduction in the mosquito population (because they can’t mate), particularly in a species that is the carrier of dengue fever, which there have cases of in the Keys.  The company also claims that they have successfully released these mutant mosquitos in the Cayman Islands three years ago, but despite all of those claims residents of the Keys want none of it.

About 90,000 people have signed a petition saying that they do not want these mosquitos released and asking the FDA to not permit Oxitec’s mosquito release.  There are concerns over what kind of impact releasing these modified insects into the ecosystem will have, and I must say that science doesn’t exactly have a good very good track record with genetically enhanced insects — the killer bee for example.  So, the residents of the Keys simply want more scientific proof that these mosquitos are in fact safe, and I think that is a fair request.  To be equally fair, Oxitec has stated that the decision to release or not release is completely up to the local governments, so they are not out there pushing for this — at least not overtly.

Genetically Engineered Grass May Have Killed Cows

Not to awfully long ago it seemed that science could and would make our world a veritable utopia, and it isn’t too hard to understand why.  For about 100 years, from 1850 to 1950 the advancement in pretty much everything happened in such a rapid pace to where there is no way you could fault anyone from thinking that utopia wasn’t too far off of the horizon.  Think about it, in that relatively short period of time mankind went from riding horses to flying jets, and we went from living in in homes heated with fire and cooled by opening windows to central heat and air, and through the discovery of penicillin and other medicines, it seemed that we were on the course of eliminating all diseases that could afflict us.  Yes, times were good and it seemed the future was limitless.

Well, fast forward to today, and there seems to be not so much a backlash, but at least a recognition that perhaps science’s meddling in something’s may not exactly yield the desired results, and in fact could actually introduce unintended consequences.  Take for example a recent mass death of cows in Central Texas.  According to early test results the mass die-off is being blamed on the grass that the cows were eating, and that would seem rather strange and disconcerting, considering the fact that cows eat grass.  However the grass that is so far being blamed as the culprit is not your typical, au natural kind of grass, it is a genetically engineered grass call Tifton 85.  To be fair this is not exactly a “new” strain of scientifically created grass, it has been in use, at least on this particular farm, for 15 years, but like a science experiment that goes wrong, al la Frankenstein’s monster, the grass appears to be emitting cyanide gas, thus poisoning the cattle.  While no one could or should argue that science hasn’t made our lives better in many respects, I think there is a growing number of people who can argue that maybe science shouldn’t try and “build a better mousetrap” when it comes to things like food, and the food our food eats.