Google’s Parent Has a Plan to Eliminate Mosquitoes Worldwide
Nov 30, 2018 at 6:43 pm #3566582
Mosquitos are not just a hassle for backpackers; they are the world’s deadliest animal. This sounds promising but there may be unintendd consequences. What else could be infected or affected by this bacterium…
“…They were infected with Wolbachia, a common bacterium. When those 80,000 lab-bred Wolbachia-infected, male mosquitoes mate with their counterpart females in the wild, the result is stealth annihilation: the offspring never hatch.Nov 30, 2018 at 6:53 pm #3566583
I also wonder how other parts of the eco system will be affected–for example bats and fish that feed on mosquitoes. And other parts that we might not even know about.
And yes–what about that bacterium?
Next up: let’s get rid of that salt in the ocean–then there will be plenty to drink!Nov 30, 2018 at 8:07 pm #3566593
Anything we do may have unintended consequences – and the scientists who are doing this work hard to study and try to understand them.
But Malaria infects 200 million people a year, and kills almost half a million. Sorry about the bats and fish who are specialized to eat mosquitoes, but half a million human lives are more important. When something is so bad, it cannot be right to adopt a kneejerk “never do anything just in case it has unintended consequences” position. Of course you do your best to study all aspects of the potential impact, but the hurdle here is unintended consequences that are worse than half a million dead human beings.Nov 30, 2018 at 8:44 pm #3566605Tom KBPL Member
“Anything we do may have unintended consequences – and the scientists who are doing this work hard to study and try to understand them.”
Depending on the consequences in question, trying hard may not be enough. It seems to me we are entering a period where the technologies we are deploying, or are about to deploy, may well have such consequences. Perhaps a little caution is in order? At least limit trials geographically for some number of years, until major ecological disruptions are eliminated as a possible consequence?Nov 30, 2018 at 10:44 pm #3566636
So what’s the evidence that an inappropriate level of caution is being exercised here? It seems to me that there is a strong burden on those advocating “more caution” to show more than just vague misgivings when an extra few years of delay equals one million dead human beings.Nov 30, 2018 at 10:50 pm #3566637
^^^^that’s hard to argue with.
If it were ticks….would we be more inclined to give it a green light? Less deaths worldwide by far but right here on BPL ticks seem to concern many of us.Nov 30, 2018 at 10:53 pm #3566638Jeffs ElevenBPL Member
“but half a million human lives are more important”
lolNov 30, 2018 at 11:15 pm #3566644
“If it were ticks….would we be more inclined to give it a green light?”
Exactly. I think people are losing sight of how terrible a scourge this disease is. More than the entire population of the U.S. suffering from a debilitating disease. If we lived in sub-Saharan Africa chances are we’d all personally know friends or family who died from it.
The number of people globally who die from malaria is similar in order of magnitude to the number who die from cancer in the U.S. (it’s about 400k vs 600k). If a cure for cancer were proposed that had a similar potential unknowns, would anyone be saying: “wait, let’s be more cautious”.Dec 1, 2018 at 4:42 am #3566690Tom KBPL Member
“It seems to me that there is a strong burden on those advocating “more caution” to show more than just vague misgivings when an extra few years of delay equals one million dead human beings.”
I guess my vague misgivings harken back to when we had malaria on the run with massive applications of DDT; until we came face to face with the unintended consequences of that over several decades, which were severe enough to take it off the market. The list of hastily deployed technologies with unintended consequences is long and growing, to the point where I, for one, exist in a state of vague misgiving. But that is just me. I have long been an advocate of more caution across the board, but it is a lonely position to stake out. We shall see what the future holds in store as we continue to unleash even more environment altering technology without adequate forethought as to potential consequences. The cumulative effects to date are not very encouraging from my perspective.Dec 1, 2018 at 4:59 am #3566694MWBPL Member
Hold the pitchforks. There are about 3500 mosquito species. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito
They are targeting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which are the primary species responsible for transmitting human viruses such as malaria, yellow fever, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, dengue fever, filariasis, Zika virus and other arboviruses.
Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria found in 60% of all insect species. Aedes aegypti aren’t usually found with Wolbachia. Read more about the Wolbachia program: http://www.eliminatedengue.com/our-research/wolbachiaDec 1, 2018 at 5:53 am #3566697
Unintended consequences may well mean “something worse than malaria”.
My impression was that Google wanted to eliminate all mosquitoes. Targeting only disease bearing species is a bit less drastic.
We’re experiencing a human caused mass extinction of species. Global warming is killing ocean reefs, which are nurseries for many species. We’re doing a lot of ‘hey let’s kill off hundreds of species, what could go wrong’ as it is. It simply strikes me that addressing the problem of malaria by causing yet another extinction is just more of the same kind of thinking–and that’s creating an ecological future that will probably bring us something worse than malaria, and not too far in the future,
I strongly disagree that “the burden should be on those urging caution to show why this shouldn’t be done immediately”. Nonsense. We don’t release drugs onto the market on the say so of Google, or anyone else. I’m not going to make a decision until more information is available.Dec 1, 2018 at 6:37 am #3566698Philip TschersichBPL Member
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
Okay, worldwide there are over 3,500 species of mosquitoes. Some of them carry human pathogens. These disease-carrying species are the targets in some of these efforts, like in eliminating, or making disease-resistant, species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Invasive, non-native species are the targets in other control programs. The accidental introduction of non-native species like the Aedes aegypti in California is not ‘natural’ so their eradication is not necessarily any less desirable. If exhaustive and scientifically-defensible efforts are made to combat collateral consequences, then a case can be made for these programs. There are historically spectacular and well-documented failures in ‘natural’ control interventions (e.g., the cane toad et al; which was very successful in some areas but far less so in others). Because of these real and serious issues, I will hazard that more rigorous laboratory and field studies precede the current releases of biological controls into the wild. Not that mistakes can’t be made, just that they are less likely and arguably less detrimental than doing nothing in the modern context.
There are untold numbers of extinctions happening all around us every year through totally banal (and ignorant) human activity such as normal ‘development’, and exotic species are dumped into every wetland, forest, and desert every day by suburban folks emptying out their aquariums into local rivers and swamps or gardeners letting their random plants run wild. By contrast I’m not super bothered by a well-studied, concerted, and targeted biological control program like this.Dec 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm #3566734
So when next week China announces that they’ve released a genetically engineered pathogen into the environment that’s designed to address some health problem..and the week after that Japan lets loose some genetically altered bait fish into the ocean, and then India or Facebook (!!) or Apple does the same with yet more species…will that be fine with everyone? Let ‘er RIP? Chile decides that THIS time they really have killer bees down right, and hey they’ve added some new twists to make them invulnerable–and they’ll be on two more continents in ten years…? cool?
There’s no process developed. Google wants to introduce a new genetically altered species into nature in Africa. What do the Africans think about that?
What if U.S. scientists find fault with the Chinese research? Who decides? Well, China obviously because Google got to be the decider in this case. Google. Really?
You can’t just go into this willy-nilly. Who do the Google scientists answer to?
There needs to be a process for all that’s coming down the road….in ten minutes. This sets a bad precedent. Do it right.Dec 29, 2018 at 6:54 am #3570652BeendarenbackBPL Member
@beendareLocale: SF Bay area
Could it be that Malaria carrying Mosquitos are here as a part of a natural solution to overpopulation?
Its a circular argument. Could it be that the technology we develop part of a natural evolution of things?
Its pretty hard to make an argument FOR Mosquitos in my book.. ticks and chiggers are right there too.Dec 29, 2018 at 5:41 pm #3570673Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
Those little nasties aren’t all bad,Dec 29, 2018 at 6:03 pm #3570678Greg MihalikBPL Member
The Bloomberg article, with it’s embedded video, seem to be the only source of “eliminating mosquitoes worldwide”. All of the other hits I found regarding “Wolbachia pipientis” and “worldwide” go back to the Bloomberg article. There is no mention of “worldwide” on the Verily (Alphabet/Google) site. It could be in the plans, but I find the Bloomberg headline to be more like click-bait than reality.
As Phillip T. mentions above, there are 3500 species out there, not all of which are controllable by this sterile insect technique. This is a localized solution to a localized problem. Believing one could simultaneously target all of the breeding sites of all species across the world seems like a stretch to me.Feb 21, 2019 at 3:37 am #3579664Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I agree with Ralph Burgess, the unintended consequences of eliminating mosquitos worldwide may have disastrous consequences for other species of insects, plants and animals.
Let’s “somehow” eliminate malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and Zika IN the mosquitos.Feb 22, 2019 at 6:22 pm #3579946
I hear the arguments about unintended consequences and I certainly see the point. Now can we extend that wisdom to all the well intentioned “engineering” we do with everything else …;)
we do love to mess with nature, including human nature.Feb 22, 2019 at 6:49 pm #3579949Ben CBPL Member
We’ve had the ability to wipe out mosquitoes with CRISR gene drives for quite some time. They are similarly trying to figure out the possible consequences on that side. https://cen.acs.org/biological-chemistry/biotechnology/CRISPR-gene-editing-drives-caged/96/i39Feb 22, 2019 at 8:32 pm #3579968Matt DirksenBPL Member
@namelesswayLocale: Mid Atlantic
Is it really their fault that they are carrying all those deadly pathogens?
Why not create a powerful marketing campaign to persuade mosquitoes to stop carrying all those things deadly to us?
Seems like humans are very good at persuading ourselves to do all sorts of crazy stuff.
Perhaps they’re “not really” trying to kill off an entire species on purpose – are they?
Maybe we should develop a “Playing G_D 101” degree program first.Dec 16, 2019 at 9:15 pm #3623132John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
Wiping out a major pillar that balances the environment.
Yes they mosquitos a pain in the butt.
Yes malaria sucks.
But the the unintended consequences will be massive. This amounts to messing with the basics of nature. Bad idea.Dec 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm #3623153
waiting in line sucks. Slow internet sucks. Poison oak sucks. Malaria killing half a million just in 2016 does way more than suck.Dec 17, 2019 at 4:48 pm #3623202
Google??? Facebook???? FACEBOOK????? If Facebook decides to eradicate a species, people are fine with this? And all the rest of the deciders I mentioned earlier? Come on. There has to be a process.
How did we come to abdicate to tech companies? They often make extremely stupid and dangerous choices. Uber, anyone? the billion dollar loss a year with no viable future company decides to unleash driverless cars that aren’t ready on our roads…and we’re all groovy with this?
I’m sure we’ve all seen a lake surface explode at sunset as fish come up to feed on mosquitoes. What if it turns out Google (!!!!!) is eradicating fish from lakes and streams too? Are we still all groovy?
Or can google do no wrong?
targeting a single species of mosquito that are the sole carriers may be fine. What comes to fill the niche left by the eradicated species?Dec 17, 2019 at 6:18 pm #3623209John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
Hey this BPL. Killing all the mosquitos saves me nearly 3oz by leaving my headnet and 1oz bottle of repellent during peak summer months. Not much, but I’ll take it. Warming temps though…..big win as I have most likely saved a pound! 👍Dec 17, 2019 at 9:55 pm #3623223
@jscott we come at this from such different perspectives I don’t think we’ll ever come close to understanding one another. Where you say the likes of me abdicate to big tech ( to save 1/2 million people a year) I say the likes of you not only abdicate to daddy Gov, you enjoy it and want more of it. And no I do not say gubmint . Enough said.
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