The Genetic Jungle

By February 10, 2015Avian malaria, Ethical, Workgroup 1

Author: Guy Reeves

Publication: Council for Responsible Genetics

Publication Date: 2014

Introduction: I have an image of walking through a tropical jungle sometime in the future. It looks and sounds just like an idealized jungle should: birds singing, luxuriously green, with the perceptible sound of insects doing the myriad of things that insects do. Yet despite the idyllic vista, I experience a sense of disquiet knowing how some of the organisms got into the picture. There are butterflies genetically modified to be resistant to a viral disease; an iconic orchid which was genetically modified to protect it from hybridizing its way out of existence with an accidentally introduced relative; and there are frogs with a
genetically modified bacteria growing on their skins to help protect them from a fungal plague that had previously devastated their populations. The jungle certainly looks and feels more like a jungle in having its native butterflies, orchids and frogs. However, the presence of these GM organisms can also be seen as evidence of past failures to protect the environment, rather than as technological triumphs.

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