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The Kill Switch

By: Dan

Imagine having a switch that could wipe out an entire species. Sounds intense, right? Well, this type of switch is currently being sewn into the DNA of many different organisms through GMO Technology. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, and is already in our life, mainly in the form of food. GMOs occur when an organism’s genetic material is altered by genetic engineering. Currently, GMOs are mainly used in crops to prevent plants from being wiped out by a virus, or to give apples an unnatural red shine, etc. When these GMOs spread into the wild, they are relatively easy to contain, as they are just plants. However, that may not be the case when, for example, a giant mosquito escapes and then breeds. Though it sounds rather funny now, it’s a legitimate concern in the future. If a GMO produces a genetically-superior mosquito (like a Captain America mosquito) that breeds uncontrollably, we could have a huge problem on our hands. Thus, scientists have designed kill switches. Kill switches are genetic modifications that trigger suicide or make it so an organism has to rely on something that cannot be found in the wild, leading to its death. This week, scientists announced a new type of kill switch that kills the organism and also deletes modified genes. But one might think, “That’s what they did in Jurassic Park, and that didn’t work.” Keep in mind that it was a movie, not at all a realistic concern. Kill switches could be an incredibly useful tool, as more and more things nowadays are genetically modified, and one day, it could be kill switches that prevent disaster.

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