A group of European scientists warns that a US military program dubbed ‘Insect Allies’ could be used as a biological weapon to poison the global society.
The Pentagon’s research arm claims they are intended to defend crops, but doesn’t deny ‘dual-use’ potential.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the University of Freiburg in Germany, as well as the University of Montpellier, France, have published a critique of the program, dubbed “Insect Allies.”
They argue that “the knowledge to be gained from this program appears very limited in its capacity to enhance US agriculture or respond to national emergencies”.
And therefore the program “may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery,” which would mean a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention.
DARPA argued the program was intended to “respond rapidly to threats to the food supply” and that it was subject to government regulation and transparency rules.
DARPA’s insect allies would work by injecting the affected crops with gene-editing viruses intended to target whatever ailment affects them, using CRISPR technology.
However, the researchers point out this mechanism could also be used to introduce viruses into healthy organisms ?
The question is not whether the program can be weaponized; it already has been. DARPA has been one of the major sources of funding for a project to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild, armed with a gene-editing virus intended to sterilize the species that transmits malaria.
There have been plans to release these GMO mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
The dispute over Insect Allies comes as Russia has raised concerns about a US biological research facility in Tbilisi, Georgia. A former government minister has recently published on-line some 100,000 pages of documents about the facility.
The Russian military is now looking into the outbreaks of African swine fever since 2007 that originated in Georgia and spread into Russia, Europe and China.
Despite worrisome scientific breakthroughs and controversial research programs, so far the notion of a genetically tailored virus being used as a biological weapon has been confined to science fiction.
A story published in 2015, titled “Seven Kill Tiger,” posited the nightmare scenario of China using such a weapon to wipe out much of Africa.
RT.com / ABC Flash Point GMO News 2018.