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It may sound hard to believe, but many different countries around the world have experimented with disease-spreading insects as weapons of war. This idea is not so crazy considering how fleas helped to swiftly wipe out one third of the European population during the Bubonic plague. Also, insects reproduce and mature into adulthood quickly, which makes insects a renewable weapon of war. Considering these factors, using disease-spreading insects as a biological weapon would win a war relatively quickly. The United States devoted a considerable amount of scientists to the task of exploring insects as a biological weapon before and after World War Two. Before and during World War Two, countries like Great Britain, Japan, Germany and the Soviet Union also explored the practical use of insects as a biological weapon. Of course, this is all in the distant past, as the many post war treaties and international organizations that exist today would never allow a country to research the use of insects as a weapon of war. Well, hopefully not, but many scientists and other observers have learned that officials with the Pentagon are genetically modifying insects so that they can transmit diseases more efficiently. However, defense officials claim that this project is only focused on genetically modifying insects to carry diseases to crops as a form of pest control and as a method for maintaining the health of crops.

Not long ago, it became known that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is using gene-editing technology to infect insects with modified viruses in order to make crops more resilient to a variety of threats such as insect pest damage, drought and disease. This project is named “Insect Allies,” and the government claims that the project’s aims are not militaristic in any way. The idea is to deploy insects over troubled crops so that they can transmit a disease to a crop that allows it to withstand certain threats. For example, if a corn crop were to become exposed to a pathogen, insects may be genetically infected with a disease that could be transmitted to crops in order to inhibit the growth of the corn. This would allow crops to suspend their development until a disease could be eradicated. Despite the plausible explanation that the Department of Defense is providing, many members of the scientific community are skeptical. Five scientists recently published their concerns in the Journal of Science. The publication describes the need for a sound justification for the program’s aims.

Do you think that “Insect Allies” project has militaristic purposes?