The U.S. military’s highly secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is worrying some in the scientific community over its attempt to develop so-called “doomsday genetics” technology that could be unleashed against a future enemy.
The concern, say critics, is that the technology may not be controllable. The genes would be designed to specifically target and wipe out an entire species and, so far as is known, is aimed at insects. But that’s what is ‘known.’
Also, experts worry about unintended consequences of the technology. “You may be able to remove viruses or the entire mosquito population, but that may also have downstream ecological effects on species that depend on them,” said one.
“My main worry,” he added, “is that we do something irreversible to the environment, despite our good intentions, before we fully appreciate the way that this technology will work.”
Noted Jim Thomas, a co-director of the ETC group, which obtained emails showing that the U.S. military is spending $100 million to develop the technology, further warned: “The dual-use nature of altering and eradicating entire populations is as much a threat to peace and food security as it is a threat to ecosystems. Militarization of gene drive funding may even contravene the Enmod convention against hostile uses of environmental modification technologies.” [source]