The only thing they are great at is killing people; by being a leading source of vector-borne dengue disease. Not far behind is Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, which carry malaria. Malaria kills nearly as many people each year as COVID-19 did in 2020 but there is no Warp Speed program to keep poor people in developing nations from dying. Environmental activists (overwhelmingly white and wealthy) instead spend $2 billion a year scaring people of color in other countries about science.
Pesticides wiped out malaria in the U.S.(1) and remain the best way to go. DDT still works well and is in common use in afflicted countries.(2) Though banned politically in the U.S. half a century ago, our EPA literally writes the manual for how to spray it in homes elsewhere, but the Rachel Carson dream was to replace pesticides with genetically modified crops - optimizing nature to keep other parts of nature from killing everything using fewer chemicals.
Anopheles gambiae. Credit: Jim Gathany, USCDCP
Environmentalists who beatify Carson because of "Silent Spring" have opposed her actual science vision of genetic modification to reduce spraying of chemicals. They oppose using mosquitoes to stop the spread of diseases (3) but they have gotten so caught up in opposing GMOs they are now stuck. GMO is a legal term, not a science one. Why is GMO said to be killing Gaia but not mutagenesis, which is not only considered organic despite their chemical and radiation baths, has resulted in 2,000 products out there? A GMO simply means it is transgenic - DNA from something else has been introduced. It was far more selective and efficient than the mutagenesis that came before. All those diabetics taking GMO insulin since the 1980s have had no issue, nor have a billion cows and people who have eaten GMO crops. No matter what the humanities majors working at Natural Resources Defense Council or Swiss Public Eye try to claim.
What if no foreign DNA is used at all? What if a natural gene is just shut off, producing a beneficial effect? Is it still an abomination of nature? That's their new struggle. Gene drives and CRISPR-Cas9 are here in a big way and a new study shows they could be great for reducing mosquito populations, similar to what Oxitec has done with GMOs.
In experiments, Dr. Astrid Hoermann of Imperial College London and colleagues used CRISPR-Cas9 tech to insert a gene that turns on an antimalarial protein and because it functions as a gene drive the mosquitoes were able to successfully reproduce and remain healthy.
So we have a mosquito resistant to pathogens that cause human diseases and can reproduce. Obviously a gene drive would never just be introduced into the wild, it took two decades for the US government to even approve a gene from an Atlantic salmon going into a Pacific salmon, this kind of technology is completely lost on government regulators.
This is a controlled experiment and given the nature of the technology, it is easy to do field trials, but would an integral gene drive be worth the cost? That's hard to say. A decade ago I said RNAi would be the successor to GMOs, not CRISPR-Cas9, and there are a lot of promising ways to kill mosquitoes that already exist and are in development.
That is a big win for poorer countries. It is only activists that will have to scramble for new science to demonize.
(1) The notion that it was harmful to people was fabricated by environmentalists. Rachel Carson was concerned that overuse was harmful to birds and bees, but the data didn't show it. There are not fewer birds now, nor were there during the DDT craze.
One thing was true; farmers used more of it than needed. The belief then was the same thing people still have about aspirin - if two are good, eight are better. But science does not work that way. Today, farmers know pesticide science better than nearly every environmental activist.
3. Anti-science activists like to use the term "Franken" in front of progress they want to undermine (FrankenCorn, FrankenBug, etc.), but the Frankenstein monster was a graft, not a GMO. He would be Certified Organic and get a Non-GMO Project label if his credit card cleared, just like 61,000 other products they sell stickers for that don't have GMO equivalents anyway - such as salt and water.
- CRISPR-Cas9: When A GMO Is Not A GMO
- CRISPR-Cas9 Edit Technique For Mosquito That Transmits Chikungunya Yellow Fever
- Genetic Literacy Project Releases Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker and Index
- Highly Efficient CRISPR Knock-In In Mouse
- An Alternate Approach To Stopping Mosquitoes That Spread Zika- Using CRISPR To Make Them Resistant To Carrying It