Genetic Engineering to the Rescue Against Invasive Species?

Scientists call for a public discussion on development of emerging "gene drive" technology.

Genes for swatting tiger mosquitoes, defanging brown tree snakes, and deporting Asian carp, all nasty invasive species, sound like a swell idea. But the latest idea in eradication—genetic engineering—poses its own risks, warn biotechnology experts.

Invasive species wreak havoc worldwide, disrupting native ecosystems and inflicting more than $120 billion in damages annually in the U.S. alone. Many economically—and environmentally—damaging species, such as those mosquitoes, snakes, and carp, defy removal with existing technology.

But there is good news. "Gene drives"—which could trigger a precipitous decline in invasive species by tinkering with their genetic machinery—have arrived as a fast-maturing technology, an international team of scientists announced on Thursday.

"Once an invasive species arrives in a new habitat and is driving

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