Risiken der Gentechnik: GENE-DRIVE-Moskitos – ein mögliches Zukunftsszenario

Genetic engineering – a possible future scenario: GENE-DRIVE-MOSQUITOS The metropolis of Munich and southern Germany: There is an increase in the number of serious diseases with high fever as a result of mosquito bites. These are probably due to genetically modified mosquitoes. Similar cases have previously been observed in Africa. REALITY What happened? US scientists have been working intensively on genetically modified mosquitoes since 2014 to use them in Africa to combat malaria. The mosquitoes are genetically engineered with a gene drive. The idea: the genes are inserted into the mosquitoes in the laboratory and after release will spread rapidly into natural populations. The process of genetic modification self-replicates in every following generation. The new trait is intended to be passed on as far as possible to all descendants. The mosquitoes then not only carry an additional gene, but also the mechanism for genetic modification. The genetically engineered mosquitoes are no longer able to transmit malaria pathogens, as would otherwise happen with mosquito bites. POSSIBLE FUTURE SCENARIO And how is it in 2040 then to illnesses by mosquito bites in Germany? The story from the beginning: After the first releases of gene-drive mosquitoes, the number cases of malaria initially decreases in some regions of Africa. And the company that genetically engineered and released the mosquitoes celebrates this as a great success. Unfortunately, soon afterwards the positive effect is diminished. And it is discovered that the genes have been transferred to other mosquito species, that can mate with the genetically modified mosquitoes. The added gene triggered unexpected biological effects in the mosquitoes: These mosquitoes did not transmit malaria but their bite caused very high fever. The reason: an overproduction of certain proteins in the saliva of mosquitoes which can lead to serious inflammation after a bite. It is assumed that the genetic modification also interfered with the activity of the mosquito’s natural genes. The mosquitoes eventually spread into southern Germany due to climate change. REALITY What we should consider: Genes are not simple isolated building blocks. Environmental effects and interactions with other genes can influence their functions. These effects are not sufficiently predictable. Scientists are currently working on gene drive in various laboratories to evolve new turbo-genetic engineering methods that can genetically modify natural populations. Among other things, plans include genetic engineering of populations of mosquitoes, flies, wild plants and rodents. A POSSIBLE FUTURE SCENARIO Often, short-term considerations such as profit expectations are high on the agenda. The new organisms are touted as a solution to pressing problems. The long-term risks are not being explained or made public. REALITY How should we handle these risks? The only thing that can help is precaution: Genetically modified organisms that can spread uncontrolled through natural populations, should not be released. Anything else would interfere with the germline of biodiversity. Errors made now with new genetic engineering technology can affect all subsequent generations. Further Information on: www.testbiotech.org/en/limits-to-biotech

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