Researchers Must Understand Environmental, Medical, Political Risks Before Deploying Mosquito Modification Technology To End Malaria
Washington Post: Combating malaria by modifying mosquitoes could save thousands of lives. It’s also risky.
Henry T. Greely, director of the center for law and the biosciences at Stanford University
“…[B]iotech holds out the potential of progress [to end malaria] — possibly soon. … One approach uses genetic engineering to reduce, or even eliminate, populations of malaria-carrying mosquitoes … Another more elegant tactic uses genetic modifications to make mosquitoes immune to the malaria plasmodium, the parasite that causes the disease. … The stakes of deploying or not deploying such research are high … Can we in good conscience hold off from using these technologies as soon as possible? Yes, we can. In spite of the stakes — in some ways because of the stakes — it is important that we get this right before we try it. We have a moral imperative to fight malaria, but we also need a better understanding of the environmental, medical, and political risks before we rush in. And we need to regulate the relevant experiments and field tests, not just to avoid unanticipated ecological side effects but also to forestall political resistance. … It’s never possible to know the perfect time to introduce a new intervention, but we need to investigate these new approaches and their likely consequences both carefully — and urgently” (2/5).
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