Crop-Protecting Insects Could Be Turned into Bioweapons, Critics Warn. Kupferschmidt, K.
Crop-Protecting Insects Could Be Turned into Bioweapons, Critics Warn [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
[Excerpt] [...] A research program funded by the U.S. government plans to create virus-carrying insects that, released in vast numbers, could help crops fight threats such as pests, drought, or pollution. ” Insect Allies,” as the \$45 million, 4-year program is called, was launched in 2016 with little fanfare. But in a policy forum in this week's issue of Science, five European researchers paint a far bleaker scenario. If successful, the technique could be used by malicious actors to help spread diseases to almost any crop species and devastate harvests, they say. The research may be a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the piece argues. [...] Funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia, Insect Allies aims to use insects such as aphids or whiteflies to infect crops with tailormade viruses that can deliver certain genes to mature plants; it's essentially gene therapy for crops. The goal, DARPA says, is to find a new way to protect plants growing in the field from emerging threats. The approach would be faster and more flexible than developing new crop varieties in the laboratory, which can take years, says Blake Bextine, who manages the project at DARPA. [...] But in their paper, the critics charge that ” the program may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery.” The BWC is strongly worded, banning the development of any biological agents ” that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes,” says Silja Voeneky, a legal scholar at the University of Freiburg in Germany and one of the authors. It's hard to see such a justification for Insect Allies, she argues, because the method is hard to control and unlikely to be allowed in peacetime. Besides, there is an easier way to introduce viruses to plants: spraying. ” If the peaceful purpose is to protect plants, there are all these unanswered questions,” Voeneky says. [...]
@article{kupferschmidtCropprotectingInsectsCould2018,
  title = {Crop-Protecting Insects Could Be Turned into Bioweapons, Critics Warn},
  author = {Kupferschmidt, Kai},
  date = {2018-10},
  journaltitle = {Science},
  issn = {0036-8075},
  doi = {10.1126/science.aav6274},
  url = {https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aav6274},
  abstract = {[Excerpt] [...] A research program funded by the U.S. government plans to create virus-carrying insects that, released in vast numbers, could help crops fight threats such as pests, drought, or pollution. ” Insect Allies,” as the \$45 million, 4-year program is called, was launched in 2016 with little fanfare. But in a policy forum in this week's issue of Science, five European researchers paint a far bleaker scenario. If successful, the technique could be used by malicious actors to help spread diseases to almost any crop species and devastate harvests, they say. The research may be a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the piece argues. [...] Funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia, Insect Allies aims to use insects such as aphids or whiteflies to infect crops with tailormade viruses that can deliver certain genes to mature plants; it's essentially gene therapy for crops. The goal, DARPA says, is to find a new way to protect plants growing in the field from emerging threats. The approach would be faster and more flexible than developing new crop varieties in the laboratory, which can take years, says Blake Bextine, who manages the project at DARPA. [...] But in their paper, the critics charge that ” the program may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery.” The BWC is strongly worded, banning the development of any biological agents ” that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes,” says Silja Voeneky, a legal scholar at the University of Freiburg in Germany and one of the authors. It's hard to see such a justification for Insect Allies, she argues, because the method is hard to control and unlikely to be allowed in peacetime. Besides, there is an easier way to introduce viruses to plants: spraying. ” If the peaceful purpose is to protect plants, there are all these unanswered questions,” Voeneky says. [...]},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-14643330,agricultural-resources,biological-control,biological-invasions,complexity,forest-resources,plant-pests,post-normal-science,precaution,precaution-principle,science-ethics,unexpected-effect,vegetation}
}
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