"No other bite kills more humans, or makes more of us sick." Nor is there any animal more annoying.
And to make matters worse, there seems to be no real purpose to these ridiculous pests. THE WORLD COULD EASILY SURVIVE WITHOUT THEM!!!
Andrea Crisanti, "a tousled, sad-eyed man with a gentle smile, was trained as a physician in Rome" then studied molecular biology in Heidelberg where "he developed his lifelong interest in malaria." In recent years, he and his colleagues have discovered a way to "spread an infertility mutation to 75 percent of a mosquito population" (via).
Which sounds great!
But . . .
For thousands of years, the relentlessly expanding population of Homo sapiens has driven other species to extinction by eating them, shooting them, destroying their habitat or accidentally introducing more successful competitors to their environment. But never have scientists done so deliberately, under the auspices of public health. The possibility raises three difficult questions: Would it work? Is it ethical? Could it have unforeseen consequences? (via).
The answers are a bit more complex than what one might expect. Yes, breeding sterile mosquitos could wipe out a large percentage of the overall population and eradicating them completely in smaller communities, but it's probably almost impossible to think they could be wiped out completely. But it's the bigger question, the Jurassic Park question of just because we can rid the world of these pesky insects, does that mean we should?
The larger concern, arguably, is over the use of CRISPR itself, and the awesome power it unleashes over the environment. “We can remake the biosphere to be what we want, from woolly mammoths to nonbiting mosquitoes,” Greely muses. “How should we feel about that? Do we want to live in nature, or in Disneyland?”
“We will have engineered the ecosystems of people elsewhere in the world without their knowledge or consent. We go from the default assumption that the things we engineer will not spread, to assuming they will . . . as soon as you’re thinking of a gene drive technology, you have to assume whatever you’re making will spread once it gets outside the lab. Human error will win out, if not deliberate human action" (via).
After swatting and scratching and waving off that annoying buzz in my ears all summer long, getting rid of mosquitos was a no-brainer. Especially after watching this:
But then, "as soon as you’re thinking of a gene drive technology, you have to assume whatever you’re making will spread once it gets outside the lab."
Nature is beautiful often because it is imperfect. And if Disneyland were to spill out and over the rest of the country, the world, and consume the mountains and rivers, making them "perfect", is that really a world we want to live in?
I don't think so. But then, I'm brought back, again and again, to this. And suddenly, once again, I'm torn. Because it isn't about annoyances anymore, but lives. Hundreds of thousands of them.
Suddenly the answer seems pretty clear.
But is it?
Ridding the world of mosquitoes is an act of playing God, but without the ability to see the future of consequence. We get to decide what has the right to live and what doesn't. We bypass natural selection and head straight for extinction.
What then? And will it be worth it?
Should we kill all mosquitoes?
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