October 14, 2018 | Edge Canopy
Again, the mad scientist division of the Pentagon, DARPA, is doing something that causes people anxiety. In 2016, a program called “Insect Allies” was launched by the US Department of Defense. It involves the investment of $45 million over the course of four years into creating viruses, that infect crops, supposedly to help prevent the failure of crops driven by climate change and pathogens.
The main focus of the program appears to be delivering a genetically engineered virus into a plant, that could improve crop growth by altering which genes the plants choose to express.
Let’s just take a step back and think about that: the US military wants to genetically engineer viruses to infect our crops with, so we can eat virus infected, altered crops.
Now, scientists are vocally expressing their concerns about the program’s potential to end up being an offensive biological weapon against the food supplies of other countries.
On Thursday, the editorial was published in Science Magazine, in which scientists from the University of Freiburg in Germany and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary biology, was well as France’s Université de Montpellier, asked the Pentagon to provide more transparency and opportunities for public discussion in regard to the project and what could result from it.
“Easy simplifications could be used to generate a new class of biological weapons,” a press release says, “weapons that would be extremely transmissible to susceptible crop species due to insect dispersion as the means of delivery.”
According to VICE: “In an email to Motherboard, a DARPA spokesperson rebutted the thesis of the Science Magazine piece and denied any intent to deploy technology developed through Insect Allies in an offensive setting.”
“We created Insect Allies specifically to develop technology that can deliver positive, protective traits to plants to help them survive unanticipated and/or fast-moving agricultural threats,” the DARPA spokesperson wrote. “We see it as a critical addition to the national security toolkit, part of a layered strategy to preserve the security of the food supply.”
DARPA makes a lot of daring attempts to develop technology, but this one is clearly more important to the military hierarchy, as the Insect Allies Program is actually a collaboration between DARPA, the EPA, the US Army, and other government agencies.
The end goal for them is to be completed with whatever they are doing by “mid-2021,” as reported by a DARPA slide presentation. The presentation claims the goal of Insect Allies is to “stably transform multiple mature crop plants in a complex, multi-species plant and insect community with enhanced trait(s) of agricultural interest,” by that mid-2021 deadline.
Continuing from VICE:
“Per the DARPA slide presentation, climate change is a major threat to US agriculture because it exacerbates extreme heat, flooding, and the formation of more powerful storms. The document also points to biological hazards—such as foreign fungi, viruses, bacteria, and insects—being introduced to US agriculture via global commerce. Volcanic and tectonic activity, like earthquakes, also threaten the US food supply, the presentation stated.”
They provide us with a threat, and then they do whatever they want. The malicious possibilities here are endless, and climate change seems to allow governments to pursue a whole lot of things they never would have been able to justify without it.
The risks are admitted to be serious. There’s the possibility that bugs won’t release the viruses to the plants as they intend. They admit that once the insects are released, they won’t necessarily perform the right actions, according to what they want to happen. Several expensive microscopic genetic tools are said to be at use here.
DARPA outlined in public documents that the first phase of Insect Allies was scheduled to finish near the end of 2018.
In late 2018, the first phase of this program may be complete: which is the “accomplishment” of successfully delivering a genetically modified virus to an insect.
From late this year to early 2020, the next phase of this project is scheduled to involved genetically changing and modifying the viruses they deliver to insects, adjusting the insects and plants as well to make sure the gene delivery is “specialized to thrive in a monoculture.” In other words, specialized to thrive in an environment where it’s nothing but one type of plant.
Continuing from Motherboard, “In an email to Motherboard, a DARPA spokesperson said that four research teams have received allotments of the $45 million funding from the agency as a part of Insect Allies, and that all teams have now entered phase two. The teams include researchers from Penn State University, the University of Texas, and Ohio State University.”
It isn’t difficult to tell what opinion this article represents. Do we need this, or want to trust people with placing genetically modified viruses in the crops that become our grocery store produce?
(Image credit: csglobe)
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