Controversial new genetic engineering technologies are being explored by researchers. Many doubts remain and the critics want a ban or a moratorium, especially on gene editing on human embryos. There is strong concern about letting out animals or insects, like mosquitos, into the wild. Genetically modified mosquitos are in fact only one of the first in a long line of projects. For example, genome editing and gene drives can be used to eradicate entire populations of animals. There are “terminator” projects underway to alter cattle so that only male offspring are born. No females. It is not difficult to imagine that it would become possible to do the same with certain groups of humans.
Now we are learning the scary truth about the secret financial backing for gene drives and other forms of genome editing. In early December, 2017 activists at Third World Network could reveal emails reporting how the US military is the top funding agency, having spent 100 million US dollar on gene drive research. The emails show that the shadowy US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the key funder of efforts to develop gene drive mice. Also, lobbying funding has come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Gene drives are a powerful and dangerous new technology and potential biological weapons could have disastrous impacts on peace, food security and the environment, especially if misused,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth, U.S. notes: “Gene drives could have profound ecological, health and socio-economic impacts.” It makes a lot of sense to step up our campaign against these dangerous technologies. I’m proud of Consumers Union of Japan for taking the lead in this battle. We need more people and consumers to become aware of this difficult issue.
ETC Group: The Gene Drive Files
MIT Technology Review: Meet the Woman Using CRISPR to Breed All-Male “Terminator Cattle”
Nature.com: CRISPR, the disruptor
(English version of Martin’s essay published in CUJ’s Shouhisha Report No. 1605, January 2018)