LivingUS could be testing bioweapons on virus-infected insects

US could be testing bioweapons on virus-infected insects

Scientists from the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön (Germany) and the University of Montpellier (France) and lawyers from the University of Freiburg (Germany) have published a worrying article in the journal Science in which they show their suspicion about a large DARPA-sponsored agricultural research program that may actually disguise a much more deadly goal than improving plant resistance in crops: a potent biological weapon.

The US military program Insect Allies could be used as a biological weapon as the Pentagon’s research arm claims that they are intended to defend crops, but does not deny the potential for “dual use.” .

Experts argue that “the knowledge to be gained from this program appears very limited in its ability to improve US agriculture or respond to national emergencies” and therefore the program “may be widely perceived as a effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes “ , which would be a violation of the Biological Weapons Convention.

DARPA issued a statement below; however, his response does not contain a strong denial regarding the use of biological weapons. Quite the contrary, ‘Insect Allies’ director Blake Bextine argued that the program was intended to “respond quickly to threats to the food supply” and that it was subject to government regulations and transparency rules.

The military research agency says its goal is to protect the nation’s food supply against threats like drought, crop diseases and bioterrorism by using insects to infect plants with viruses that protect against such dangers.

“Food security is national security,” Bextine said.

How does Insect Allies work?

These DARPA insects would inject the affected crops with genetically modified viruses intended to attack any disease that affects them, using CRISPR technology. The researchers point out, however, that this mechanism could also be used to introduce viruses into healthy organisms, turning harmless insects into a potent biological weapon.

The truth is that the program is already underway and DARPA is one of the main sources of funding for this project to release mosquitoes with infectious genetically modified viruses in the wild, destined to sterilize the species that transmit malaria.

“They’re talking about the mass release of genetically modified viruses by insects,” said Gregory Kaebnick, an ethicist at the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Research Institute in Garrison, New York, who has studied genetic modification. Kaebnick claimed that Insect Allies technology could end up being destructive.

Research Raises Many Concerns

Countries like Russia have raised concerns about this research facility in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, the Pentagon has dismissed Moscow’s misgivings as part of “a Russian disinformation campaign directed against the West.”

Hopefully a new technology will be considered, even if that’s not the intention , says Paul Thompson, a professor of agriculture and ethics at Michigan State University who sits on a DARPA advisory board.

“Once you make that kind of breakthrough, you’re in a new world.
It’s a morally ambiguous place. You ask yourself, ‘Is this something we should never do?'” Thompson concludes.

Reference: “Agricultural research, or a new bioweapon system?” Science (2018).… 1126 / science.aat7664

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