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Recent technological progress and continuous biological and chemical discoveries turn out to be frequent topics in many peer-reviewed journal and magazine articles. In this paper, the article “Viruses Spread by Insects to Crops Sound Scary. The Military Calls It Food Security” written by Emily Baumgaertner for the New York Times will be analyzed. Its peculiar feature is the intention to touch upon scientific, military, biological, ethical, and policymaking issues through the discussion of a new food security project that is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as Darpa (Baumgaertner, 2018). The Insect Allies is a futuristic project where insects carry viruses on crops, then promoting genetic modifications to survive floods, droughts, and other unfavorable natural conditions.
Despite the fact that people like the idea of innovation, not all of them are ready to accept each new project without critics. Many researchers underline that it is hard to imagine how to control insects with a virus as soon as they are released, provoking new transmissible diseases (Baumgaertner, 2018). At the same time, scientists and developers demonstrate their readiness to control breeding programs and use all their genomic resources to achieve the desired success (Yáñez, Newman, & Houston, 2015).
The authors of the Insect Allies program explain that they want to use their biological knowledge and research experiences to resist natural and engineering threats and preserve the US crop system (Baumgaertner, 2018; Bextine, n.d.). They are glad that people continue asking questions and demonstrate their concerns, proving that the US population cares about the country. Despite its dual-use potential, this project has a number of benefits in the fields of biology, science, and national security.
This article raises a number of ethical, environmental, and public concerns. New technologies are usually defined as revolutionary, and it is expected to observe multiple debates and approaches to understanding the topic. Genome modification of plants through insects with viruses is an innovative idea with no guarantees of its full control (Baumgaertner, 2018). Therefore, people are concerned if the Defense Department, as well as other stakeholders, may promote safety to the nation.
Nefarious purposes to strengthen crops in the face of droughts and floods are always easy to explain and justify. Society questions the safety of the environment under the conditions when new viruses are modified, and new results that are hard to control are observed. Science has to be used to protect people but not to provoke new questions and doubts. This article contributes to the discussion of virus appropriateness in a rather objective way.
In my opinion, all the issues described in the article have a significant potential for the future of science and biology. Although people want to be protected and improve the quality of life, they are not always ready to accept the changes they do not understand. Baumgaertner (2018) notices that biology is what the authors of the Insect Allies are good at and knowledgeable about in order to control a biological arms race.
I agree that the discussion of military, biological, or environmental issues may provoke many ethical concerns and public discontent. Instead of developing oral debates and effective presentations, scientists and biologists have to work hard and prove their decisions by reporting positive results. The author of the chosen article does not pick a side in this research debate but creates a solid, informative background for the reader.
Baumgaertner, E. (2018). Viruses spread by insects to crops sound scary. The military calls it food security. The New York Times. Web.
Bextine, B. (n.d.). Insect allies. Web.
Yáñez, J. M., Newman, S., & Houston, R. D. (2015). Genomics in aquaculture to better understand species biology and accelerate genetic progress. Frontiers in Genetics, 6(128), 1-3. Web.