Scientists are objecting to a plan to release insects onto croplands in America to spread a virus,
The idea is from the Pentagon’s “Insect Allies” program under which the government intends to use gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR to give insects modified viruses “that could make America’s crops more resilient.”
it would be a response to a cornfield being hit by an unexpected drought or suddenly exposed to a pathogen.
“‘Insect Allies’ might deploy an army of aphids carrying a genetically modified virus to slow the corn plant’s growth rate,” the report said.
But scientists, reports Science magazine, have warned that the program could be viewed “as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery, which – if true – would constitute a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention.”
The scientists said they believe there’s little possibility of enhancing the American agriculture industry or its ability to “respond to national emergencies (in either the short or long term).”
They wrote, “Furthermore, there has been an absence of adequate discussion regarding the major practical and regulatory impediments toward realizing the projected agricultural benefits.”
And while modified chromosomes, such as the program considers, mostly are vertically inherited, “from one generation to the next,” the new government plan would be to “disperse infectious genetically modified viruses that have been engineered to edit crop chromosomes directly in fields.”
“The regulatory, biological, economic, and societal implications of dispersing such horizontal environmental genetic alteration agents … into ecosystems are profound,” they said.
The government says the concern is the preservation of the U.S. crop system.