Federation of American Scientists Case Studies in Dual Use Biological Research Module 4.0: Mousepox Case Study
Topic: History of Transgenics Subtopic: Transgenics in Pest Control

Genetic engineering has also provided an alternative to chemical pesticides; transgenic crops. These techniques have varied from inserting genes for production of natural or synthesized toxins that increase plant resistance, to insertion of genes that enhance plant immunity. Research into genetically modifying insects to lower the cost of sterile release programs has great potential as well.

Non-traditional means of controlling animal pest populations like mice, rats, and rabbits have a long history, particularly in Australia where non-native species have overrun the continent. In the face of an out-of-control wild rabbit population in 1950, the Australian government released the rabbit-specific pox virus, myxoma, into the wild. The virus quickly decimated the rabbit population, but over time proved to be ineffective as resistance increased.

As early as 1997, the Australian government realized both the promise of and potential controversy associated with using infectious transgenic viruses as “carriers” of immunocontraceptive genes to immunize the host animal against their own reproductive proteins.

 

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Topic History of Transgenics “Mousepox” Experiment Implications and Public Reaction Discussion References Home