Crispr Could Change the Way We Eradicate Invasive Species

Gene editing isn't brutal like poison, but it could transform our power over nature

The methods for eradicating island predators like rats are brutal, and include things like poison, traps, rifles, and more. And animals often eat the poisoned rats, which kills them as well, or the poison seeps into other parts of the ecosystem and kills things from there. Some conservationists want to use Crispr to eradicate invasive species. It wouldn’t be as brutal, but it would drastically change our power over nature. Using self-perpetuating synthetic genetic machines called gene drives could alter not just one gene or one rat, but an entire species. It could be rats, mosquitoes, ticks, or any creature. And this biological technology promises to eliminate these creatures without a single drop of blood and no risk of poisoning others. Many institutions, like the U.S. military’s research agency or the Gates Foundation, have looked into gene drives as possible solutions for big problems, like malaria, Lyme disease or species extinction. But gene drives could completely change species, populations and ecosystems in ways that we can’t even imagine, and ways that we couldn’t stop.

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