No, I am not talking about optimizing aphids for a global agricultural armageddon. That would be silly. I’m talking about genetically modifying the eating power of the aphid so it can be used for good!
Recently, the FDA approved the release of a specific species of genetically modified male mosquitoes into the Florida Keys. It is hoped that when indigenous females breed with the genetically altered males, any new baby mosquitoes born will not reach reproductive age. This specific species is the one that carries the Zika virus.
Now that the FDA has approved this landmark project, it opens the door for other GMO-based scientific advancements. The mosquito project aims at curbing and ultimately preventing a very nasty disease from reaching humans. The goal – Stop the disease at the source. This logic is very enticing, and can be carried further to include protecting our food supply from biological threats by stopping them at their source.
Why not turn the great GMO debate on its head? By this I mean that currently we are focused on genetically altering plants so that they have natural defenses to environmental threats, ultimately to increase their yield potential. Why not take the battle back to the threats themselves. Why not control or eliminate those threats altogether? (control would be better, in my humble opinion)
Which brings me back to aphids. Aphids seem to favor eating the very crops we try to protect, yet ignore the noxious weeds we struggle to destroy. What if we could genetically modify the aphid so they loved the taste of thistle, and hated the taste of soybeans? We’d get a win win situation; the aphids would stop ruining soybeans and at the same time, drastically reduce the weeds.
It’s brilliant, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility….