Island Charity Wants To Genetically Engineer Females Out Of Galapagos Rat Populations

genetically engineering rats in the galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are famous for a lot of reasons, not least of all due to Darwin's incredible journey there that furthered his ideas about the theory of evolution.

One common story playing out on the Galapagos right now is one that we've seen elsewhere.

Non-native species of animals wreaking havoc on native species...

In an attempt to save the Galapagos from this plight, a charity called Island Conservation has put forward the idea that they should genetically engineer non-native rat species on the island so they all become Male.

The effect desired would be to rid the island of Rats which aren't native to the island, by eventually breeding out the females and any chance for reproduction.

"Gene Drives" aren't exactly new to the world of Science. Introducing DNA that spreads far more quickly through wild populations than a normal mutant gene would.

The long-term effects of gene drives are a contentious subject, as it's well known that introducing this genes to the collective 'gene pool' is very difficult to remove.

Luckily, Islands would seem like the perfect place to do this kind of thing, as the ocean can act as a barrier preventing the genes from spreading.

Then again we also have to consider the possibility that these foreign species, such as rats could just as easily find their way off island and become a genetically engineered weapon of mass destruction across rat species worldwide.

Granted that's a slim chance, but it's why there's a lot of debate about 'gene drives'.

On the other hand there's no denying this is more humane than what happened on South Georgia, a British Island. Where more than 200 tons of Brodiafacoum, an agent that prevents blood from clotting, was dumped from the air to kill thousands of Rats who died of internal bleeding as a result.

One question that needs to be addressed is what exactly is natural, if the scientific community and charities are so keen to stick to 'nature', isn't the idea of better adapted species replacing those that aren't the very essence of evolution that Charles Darwin first observed on the Galapagos itself?

It's a tricky question of morals, ethics and scientific value.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think this is a dangerous game, a virtually risk free gamble or simply cruel?

Let us know your opinions in the comments.‚Äč

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