The creator of the gene-drive, Riverside professor Omar Akbari frankly admits the gene-drive, “spread to 100 percent of flies in experiments in laboratory cages."
This year the military research agency DARPA began to develop antidotes for weaponized gene-drives.
California cherry growers are positioning themselves as the front men for researchers who desire to release the controversial gene-drive insects into environment.
Global trade brought this fruit fly a native to Asia to the American shores. The fly is now destroying the state's cherry crop. Farmers are forming a “public-benefit corporation” which is a business trust entity bracing for vigorous opposition by people opposed to GMO.
“California’s cherry growers think they may have a way to get rid of the flies cheaply. To do it, they are counting on a technology developed by geneticists: a gene drive that can spread DNA alterations among wild flies, potentially killing them off,” says Antonio Regalado.
Opponents call it a genetic “atom bomb” and want it banned.
The larva of this gene-drive fruit fly radiates a red glow. The fluorescent marking signals successful transmission of the inheritable selfish gene element. The selfish gene is a gene which is survival tool to ensure that the gene is successfully transmitted to the next generation.
Gene-editing is exploding onto to the agricultural scene intending to modify plants, insects, and possibly even your pet dog.
“It’s about having genes under precise control in whatever organism you are modifying,” says David Webb, acting CEO of both UCSD. The selfish gene is able to replicate itself and get inherited by most of an animal’s offspring rather than just half, as is usual. This effect is called “super-Mendelian” inheritance. Mendelian Inheritance is an evolutionary theory and is very controversial. The Gates foundation is investing in gene-drive to quell the mosquito invasion.
Scientists acknowledge that modifying wild animals poses complex and significant ethical, moral and regulatory issues. Just this week, The Washington Post published the story, Gene editing is now outpacing ethics.
Farmers want to kill these foreign flies with precision gene-drives as inexpensively as possible, without spraying insecticides which kills bees and other insects.
After the protective entity and funding are secured researchers would to determine where and what to attach the selfish gene payload that for a successful launch.
Gene drives are so new it is difficult to project what detriments will be. Imagine a person taking three medications. Each medication has side-effects. Adding a second drug also has side-effects plus the synergy of side-effects between the two drugs. A third drug would have side effects plus two synergistic effects between drugs. It gets very chaotic. For simplicity sake, let’s say three gene drives were released into the wild. How will they all interact? It is naïve to believe that the Medea system will work perfectly according to plan. What will happen when all these gene drives collide? Nobody knows and therein lies the danger. It is no wonder that people are very concerned about the ecological impact.
The Cherry Board hopes that the public will support the plan when it is deployed.