Malaysia recently released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild. What reason could there possibly be to justify such a thing?
Malaysia's intent is indeed honorable. They aren't purposefully trying to create a super powered variant of one of the world's most deadliest disease carriers. To the contrary, these 6.000 bugs have been genetically altered to help stem the spread of dengue fever, a nasty little bug that causes fever, headaches, rashes, and sometimes death. These new mosquitoes have been altered so that their offspring will have an unnaturally short lifespan, which Malaysia hopes will thin the population of the aedes aegypti mosquitos responsible for the sickness.
Environmental groups and the like protested, of course, perhaps hoping that the Malaysian government would exercise a little common sense. It did not, and now we'll just have to wait and see what sort of consequences the altered mosquito release could have.
One possible result is that the mosquito population will indeed thin and the release will be a massive success, but positive speculation is no fun.
More gloomy results could include the mosquitos mutating into a new, more powerful form of mosquito, the diseases they carry taking on new, deadlier properties, or the altered genes being passed along to the animals these bugs like to chew on, resulting in negative side effects for other local animals, or even humans.
No use crying over spilled mutant mosquito though. What's done is done, and we'll just have to live (hopefully) with the consequences. That's what irresponsible science is all about!
Malaysia Releases 6,000 Genetically Modified Mosquitoes into the Wild [Popular Science]