Amid United Nations fears that genetic extinction technology could be used by militaries, a United States military agency has invested $100 million in the doomsday biological technology that can wipe out an entire species.
Scientists now have the knowledge and the tools they need to create and deliver Doomsday genes which can selectively target and exterminate an entire species. And to make matters worse, emails released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), suggest that the United States's uber-secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has become the world's largest funder of this "gene drive" research and will heighten international tensions further ahead of a UN expert committee meeting in Montreal beginning on Tuesday.
The UN is debating a ban on this technology as several southern countries fear the application of using extinction technology. The use of genetic extinction technologies in bioweapons is the stuff of nightmares, but so far, known research is focused entirely on pest control and the elimination of diseases. The key word there being "known."
UN diplomats confirmed that the new email release would worsen the "bad name" of gene drives in some circles. "Many countries [will] have concerns when this technology comes from DARPA, a US military science agency," one said. "You may be able to remove viruses or the entire mosquito population, but that may also have downstream ecological effects on species that depend on them. My main worry," he added, "is that we do something irreversible to the environment, despite our good intentions, before we fully appreciate the way that this technology will work."
Jim Thomas, a co-director of the ETC group which obtained the emails, said the US military's influence in furthering this technology would strengthen the case for a moratorium. "The dual-use nature of altering and eradicating entire populations is as much a threat to peace and food security as it is a threat to ecosystems," he said. "Militarization of gene drive funding may even contravene the Enmod convention against hostile uses of environmental modification technologies."