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An argument for gene drive technology to genetically control insects like mosquitoes and locusts


by Isobel Ronai and Brian Lovett, The Conversation
The fate of society rests in part on how humans navigate their complicated relationship with insects—trying to save "good" insects and control "bad" ones. Some insects, like mosquitoes, bite people and make them sick—remember Zika? Now the U.S. mosquito season is already in full swing, with over 10 cases of Dengue fever reported in the Florida Keys this year. Some insects, like bees, are pollinators that help produce our food. Others, like locusts, currently threaten crops in East Africa and Asia, preferring to eat our food instead.

Insects have proven themselves extremely capable at evolving strategies to get around control methods, such as chemical insecticides and habitat modification, and current pest control technologies are simply not keeping up.

We are both insect scientists. Our research has included engineering a fungus to control malaria mosquitoes, uncovering the reproductive biology of honey bee workers and understanding the health impacts of invasive ticks. We've come to appreciate the potential of emerging technologies like gene drive. This technology can guarantee that a trait will be inherited by the next generation. Such traits include making mosquitoes immune to the malaria parasite so they cannot spread the disease to humans.

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