Wednesday, August 12, 2015



A TV business news item said Google was going to do some genetic engineering of mosquitoes to control pest populations.  Why the thank you?

The technology for doing such work is over thirty years old.  But business in general will not fund such biological control projects because once they are in place they tend to be self-sustaining and not a source of continuing profits.

Such projects should be funded by government research and other grants because they can benefit all in much greater proportion than their cost.  But in our anti-taxing environment there is no one to effectively compete with other research that is more likely to benefit big business.

So Google deserves a big thank you from all of us for putting money into an important project with small monetary reward.  It gets money put to good use a little quicker than waiting for the owners to fund good projects with their estates.

Notice that pharmaceutical companies go to great lengths to produce new drugs to keep their profits high from non-generic versions that may be no better than generic drugs.

An example of the biological control of pests is the introduction of milky spore bacteria into soil where Japanese Beetles are established.  One treatment is likely to give long lasting control keeping populations very low.  The chemical companies probably prefer you use a pesticide that need repeated applications.

The genetic modification of mosquitoes is almost assured to only control the species modified.  Chemical controls are seldom so well targeted.  Environmental modification can help.  In Michigan, malaria is no longer naturally occurring due largely to screened windows, drained swamps, and perhaps some other measures.  But draining swamps has made it difficult for some populations of fish, birds, amphibians, and perhaps others to resist extinction.

The techniques likely to be used for mosquito control do not include the introduction of genes hazardous to other organisms or ourselves.  Most genetically modified organisms are not a hazard when incorporated in the food chain.  Some that use genes for toxins would need to be further studied.

The likely approach for mosquito control will introduce genes into the male that will cause the female they fertilize to only produce male offspring with the same engineered feature.  Male mosquitoes don't feed on blood, only the female does.  A variety of parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is the major worldwide threat.

Thanks again, Google

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan   August 12, 2015

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