Genetically engineered corals

Genetically engineered for adaptation to climate change

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

There are also various mechanisms enabling the corals to adapt to climate change in a natural way, but these are far from being fully understood. At the same time, it is not known 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: Large numbers of GE organisms derived from NGTs, including various species with a wide range of different characteristics (intended or unintended), could be released into the environment. Many of these organisms may persist and spread in the environment without control. Such 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.

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Sources: See Testbiotech report „Genetically engineered organisms are a threat to nature conservation“

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