Genetically engineered corals

- genetically engineered for adaptation to climate change...

Can genetic engineering help with climate change and the extinction of species? This is a common  claim, i.e. corals, respectively the microorganisms living in symbiosis with them, should be altered with CRISPR/Cas9 in order to strengthen their adaptability to climate change and increased temperatures. However, corals are complex organisms that rely on a symbiosis with microorganisms which produce substances necessary for their survival. It is believed that this symbiosis also plays an important role in the bleaching of corals. Initial ideas on how to use new genetic engineering techniques and the gene scissor CRISPR/Cas to protect the corals from heat-induced damage are already being put forward.

There are also various mechanisms with which the corals can adapt to climate change in a natural way, but these are far from being fully understood. At the same time, it is unknown how the interactions between the corals and their symbionts would change with genetic engineering interventions. In addition, there is also the problem that the genetically engineered organisms cannot be removed from the coral reefs after they have been released. Genetic engineering interventions in such complex systems can result in considerable long-term distortion of the interactions between the corals and their symbionts.

This example shows: the careless use of genetic engineering endangers species protection. There is a significant risk that the ecosystems will be destabilised and the loss of species accelerated.

 

Publication year: 
2020