Unnatural Selection Recap: Gene Drive

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 18, 2019 (Last updated: December 4, 2023)
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Netflix Series Unnatural Selection Season 1, Episode 3 - Changing An Entire Species


Unnatural Selection Season 1, Episode 3, “Changing An Entire Species” provides an intriguing debate on the potential use of Gene Drive.

This recap of Netflix Series Unnatural Selection Season 1, Episode 3, “Changing An Entire Species” contains information regarding the episode. You can read the recap of the previous episode by clicking these words.

Episode 3 enters territory that you’d expect in a sci-fi film — Gene Drive. A Gene Drive is when you genetically modify a group of animals and then release them back in the wild. The purpose is that eventually, the outcome of the gene-editing will spread throughout the animal’s population. “Changing An Entire Species” debates the issue of Gene Drive and the political and scientific arguments behind it.

In many areas of Africa, malaria is a killer. A disease that we prevent for granted is taking unacceptable numbers of deaths in the continent. The Netflix series toys with the notion that if you modify the genes of clusters of mosquitoes, then you could, in effect, remove malaria all together by changing the makeover of the bug.

And then it presents New Zealand, a country that has a pest problem. Rats are dramatically wiping out habitats but most importantly, different breeds of birds.  Scientists have found a potential solution by modifying the rat’s genetic makeup, which would slowly eradicate them from existence, removing the pest problem entirely. At present, the temperatures in New Zealand provide a comfortable home for rats, and the problem is becoming worse.

I’m stuck on the fence for this argument. At the same time, I do genuinely believe playing God on ecosystems is the start of a disaster movie. We also cannot determine what would take the place of a rat once it is gone — something always replaces an empty space. But on the other hand, to lose birds, and have ecosystems effected, must be a troubling predicament for New Zealanders.

There’s a lot of resistance towards Gene Drive in the entire chapter, mostly because militaries fund scientists promoting it. There is a genuine, reasonable fear that militaries require to see the model in action so they can produce their biological weapons to do immoral damage to other countries in the future. There is no way of proving any other intention.

But then again, we go full circle — if we could change the way mosquitos function, then preventing the deaths of thousands to a disease eradicated globally years ago seems like a wise move as a human race.

It’s a tough one and not one that will be resolved for a long time as scientists battle with traditionalists daily.

Unnatural Selection Season 1, Episode 3, “Changing An Entire Species” also continues to follow Tristan who continues his social media adventure to find a cure to HIV, which is losing legs due to a frowned-upon approach.

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