Bill Gates Declares War on Mosquitoes to Save Lives, Some Enviros Not Happy
Billionaire software giant Bill Gates will invest $75 million of his own money to eliminate disease-spreading mosquitoes from the Earth, but environmentalists aren’t happy about it.
Gates plans to use genetic engineering to make mosquitoes sterile, ensure that only male mosquitoes can be born, and make them physically incapable of spreading malaria or other diseases, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review.
Similar attempts to eliminate harmful species with genetic engineering have faced enormous opposition from environmental groups. Scientists who hoped to eradicate mosquitoes from Hawaii in order to save the island’s remaining native birds from malaria have encountered enormous opposition from environmental groups.
“Genetic extinction technologies are a false and dangerous solution to the problem of biodiversity loss,” Erich Pica, president of the Friends of the Earth, said in a statement signed by anti-genetic engineering activists.
Gates himself says the technology could start killing mosquitoes within two years and The Gates Foundation recently announced plans to give an additional $35 million in efforts to get rid of mosquitoes with genetic engineering.
More deaths are associated with mosquitoes than any other organism on the planet. Mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than 1 million people every year, according to The World Health Organization. Mosquitoes create an estimated 300 to 500 million cases of malaria each year and spread countless other diseases like dengue fever, the Zika virus, Chikungunya fever and Rift Valley fever.
Scientists believes the large-scale genetic sterilization of mosquitoes could be implemented quite rapidly. Female mosquitoes generally don’t mate more than once, so releasing a large number of sterile males will cause a majority of females to mate with them and produce no offspring. This could sharply reduce the number of mosquitoes spreading dangerous viruses, including Zika, in a few generations.
A similar sterilization technique has successfully been used to eradicate the screw-worm fly and fruit flies in parts of North America.
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