We can genetically modify pests. But should we?

By Analysis by The Big Story Podcast

In today’s Big Story Podcast, picture it: Mosquitoes that don’t spread disease. Aphids and potato beetles that stay away from our crops. Biting insects that don’t bite humans. There’s an awful lot of good in a world where we can make those changes. There’s just one catch.

In order to do those things, we have to genetically modify those creatures, using cutting-edge technology that allows us to basically rewrite their code. The upside is tremendous, so the work is being done. But there are ethical questions as well as safety concerns.

Ben Matthews is a professor at the University of British Columbia, and a co-author of a report submitted to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. He said whether Canada ends up being at the forefront of this technology of not, the United States will — and Canada will need regulation to address that.

“I would say it’s a wild west because we’ve never done anything like this before,” said Matthews. 

So, are we messing with something we don’t yet fully understand? What happens if it goes wrong? And … ummm … isn’t this how the bad parts of sci-fi techno thrillers always begin?

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify. You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

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