Male mosquitoes genetically engineered to produce offspring that die in the larval stage are nearing a release into the wild.
As we first reported back in January, Oxford spin-out Oxitec was nearing a deal with the Malaysian government to release millions of GM bugs to help kill off the mosquito population that carries dengue fever.
An essential attribute of complex systems is the almost absolute impossibility to predict the consequences of a change. To change something on the genetic level is an action that goes “under the belt” of self-repairing and self-sustaining systems. The demise of an entire group of insects, however harmful they may be, can have totally unexpected consequences, and the strange thing is that I see no scientific reports reflecting on this problem. Genetic modification is one thing, the effect on self-repairing complex systems is another thing. It feels a lot like “the ends justify the means” reasoning, which has set fire to many parts of this planet.
Every time I see a report like this, I am recalling the work I have done in building a simulation of ecological complex systems. We did this exactly for the reason of being able to reason about consequences, about cause and effect in such systems.
In my simulation work this was to detect possible sources of pollution, but it is not much different, and I would very much go back to that work with modern hardware resources to be able to do research on the effects of this mosquito injection. What we seem to find very hard to learn, is how to work with the system, like in Judo, to move with its innate self-healing mechanisms, instead of the Rambo mentality of throwing grenades at it.