Ecology: Gene tweaking for conservation

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It is time to weigh up the pros and cons of using genetic engineering to rescue species from extinction, say Michael A. Thomas and colleagues.

Even the most conservative estimates predict that 15–40% of living species will be effectively extinct by 2050 as a result of climate change, habitat loss and other consequences of human activities. In the face of such drastic losses, scientists are debating the pros and cons of various, and often controversial, interventions. These include moving populations to help track hospitable habitats, and reinstating keystone species — those that have a large effect on ecosystem structure and function, such as top-level predators — into areas where they have long been absent. Even the revival of species that have recently gone extinct is being explored.

So far, an increasingly viable (and potentially less risky) option, which we call facilitated adaptation, has been little discussed. It would involve rescuing a target population or species by endowing it with adaptive alleles, or gene variants, using genetic engineering.

Over the past 30 years, genetic engineering in agriculture has received substantial attention. Today, 12% of arable land worldwide is planted with genetically modified (GM) crops; the GM seed market alone is valued at US$15 billion. As techniques become ever more sophisticated, more possibilities will open up.

Written By: Michael A. Thomas
continue to source article at nature.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. We don’t want GM, but we also don’t want pesticides. And we need to feed the ever growing population, but we can’t be turning forests into agricultural land. We don’t want a population explosion, but don’t tell me how many babies I can have, or to use contraceptives. We want energy for all, but we don’t want nuclear, or fossil fuels either. We want renewable energies, but we don’t want big dams, giant wind farms, or giant solar arrays. We don’t want epidemics and deadly disease for our children, but we also don’t want vaccinations.

    MAKE UP YOUR FREAKING MIND.

    • In reply to #3 by obzen:

      We don’t want GM, but we also don’t want pesticides. And we need to feed the ever growing population, but we can’t be turning forests into agricultural land. We don’t want a population explosion, but don’t tell me how many babies I can have, or to use contraceptives. We want energy for all, but we … etc …

      What do you suggest?

      • In reply to #4 by old-toy-boy:

        What do you suggest?

        I’m for contraception and responsible family planning. I’m for green energy and energy saving. I’m for vaccinations. I’m for aggressive recycling policies. I’m for GMs. I’m for food substitutes and not battery farms. I’m DEFINITELY for more research in cleaner nuclear energy, which has been suspiciously lacking for decades. I’m not complaining about pollution and then destroying GM crops on weekends, or complaining how ugly wind mills are while driving to work. At the end of the day, you pick the best of the bad solutions, until a better one comes up. At least let us f****** try!

        • In reply to #8 by Big Gus:>

          . . . The extinction of the species at the root of the problem should sort things out.

          Hi BigGus . . . I had a good friend in my Scottish youth called Big Gus….8-)

          I have similar thoughts – you know, cut to the chase. Sadly, when humanity implodes – whenever – the collateral damage will be incredible, and life on Earth will never be nearly the same again. Mac.

          • In reply to #9 by CdnMacAtheist:

            In reply to #8 by Big Gus:>

            . . . The extinction of the species at the root of the problem should sort things out.

            Hi BigGus . . . I had a good friend in my Scottish youth called Big Gus….8-)

            I have similar thoughts – you know, cut to the chase. Sadly, when humanity implodes – whenever – the co…

            Sadly Mac, it will most likely be the case that humans will struggle on before the stupid takes us and most of the wonderful species we share this rock with, out. Stupid bloody monkeys!

  2. As an American I can say with all honesty &; sincerity, belief in the bible is a threat to the species of which I am.

    We will not be able to care for ourselves or other species, so long as people believe the bible. That is why everything is falling apart.

    Fictional beings were created by barbarians to give people peace of mind, in the protection they offered against the mysterious components of the world. In keeping those myth gods today, we are preventing ourselves from knowing what we are no longer afraid of.

    We can not care for anything in this horribly afflicted state of mind. You see it all over the internet, how there are countless bad things going on. Where does the idea itself among modern peoples that humankind is bad originate? In the bible. &no one does anything about all of these bad things. Where does the idea today, that humankind aught not do for ourselves originate? The bible.

    Until we are able to eliminate the horrific abuse of us all that is the teachings of the bible, things can only get worse. Humanity is living in the chains of servitude due to the fears of ignorant barbarians. I make a plea for simple liberty. I say that all survival, human & otherwise, lies in our ability to know the truth, once freed from the bondage of myth.

    • In reply to #6 by Libertyinfinite:

      As an American I can say with all honesty &; sincerity, belief in the bible is a threat to the species of which I am.

      Just curious, when was the last time you actually did something political? I’m not talking about commenting on the Internet but say operating a phone bank, going door to door, etc. There are two reasons I ask. First, if people really want to change America and do something about issues like climate change it won’t happen by us talking about it on the Internet. We all need to get active.

      The second reason I ask is because although I don’t do enough, I do spend some of my time doing those things. It’s one of the things I feel I kind of have an obligation to do as an informed citizen. And whenever I do volunteer I almost always run into people of faith who are also volunteering. Those people don’t seem to be part of the problem to me they are part of the solution.

  3. …explore the use of other genes, to augment [] the resistance of white nose syndrome [] in north american bats.

    Augment? I thought there was zero resistance, hence wns spreading like wildfire.

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