Do we really need pesticides? - Fernan Pérez-Gálvez
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Recent outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and Chikungunya have increased the enthusiasm for eliminating mosquitoes from Earth. Shouldn’t we be better off without them? Scientists are developing technology solutions to combat pests using approaches apart from chemical poisoning. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations coordinates research projects using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), proposing an ingenious chemical-free approach to control fertility of some pests. Remembering 2014 TedSalon London talk, Haydn Parry biotechnology entrepreneurship is moving science fiction a step closer to science fact. You can also check out Emma Bryce’s TED-Ed on the Case of the Vanishing honeybees here.
What would happen if we succeed? It is hard to imagine another agenda for mosquitoes that excludes blood-sucking. However, some mosquito species may have significance that is still unknown unknown in ecosystems functioning. Ironically, wiping mosquitoes from the face of earth could have even more annoying consequences. The ability to modify natural populations and ecosystems at will could be closer than imagined. For instance, the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool, one of the most revolutionary technological developments in the decade, has proven to be effective to change the odds of Mendelian inheritance in our favor. This technological breakthrough could aid scientists to engineer ecosystems one species at a time, but who is to give the call?
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