Genetic Engineering’s New Frontier

Humanity’s ability to alter nature, a characteristic of our species for thousands of years, has taken a big step forward.

The ability to change the genetics of life to our liking was previously confined to domesticated creatures such as livestock and crops. It now extends throughout much of the biosphere, including ourselves.

Genetic engineering on a planetary scale used to be the stuff of science-fiction dreams, and sometimes nightmares. But now the potential has arrived. For the first time, discussions about quickly transforming entire ecosystems are no longer hypothetical.

Scientists from University of California at San Diego and the University of California at Irvine announced in November that they had genetically engineered a breed of mosquito that not only blocks infection by malaria parasites but also can quickly spread its antimalarial genes throughout its species. In some areas, a single season might be enough to change the population.

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