Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking Care of Buzzness

Science, which frankly has never made me supremely confident since it gave me my hair, is now introducing its next Hot Concept: genetically engineered mosquitoes. And just in time for the holiday season.

For those of you who are not so scientifically inclined, allow me to break this down. Genetically engineered mosquitoes are mosquitoes that are genetically engineered. Now, I don't know about you, but this strikes me as colossally misguided when you consider we don't want genetically non-engineered mosquitoes. I myself hold a long-standing vendetta against the little stinkers. For example, my precious childhood memories of Halloween in Florida mostly involve being told we couldn't trick-or-treat because of mosquito-borne encephalitis. No, that is not precisely true. My memories mostly involve my dad happily disabling the doorbell. But the mosquitoes were a very real problem nonetheless. This is especially true in Florida, where the population breaks down as follows:

Mosquitoes - 38%
The Elderly - 20%
Mosquitoes feasting on The Elderly - 40%
Other - 2%

And so now scientists want to create mega-mosquitoes. OK, granted, there is some context to this. Technically, they're creating them to combat dengue fever, a debilitating disease, as evidenced by its nickname, "the fever you don't know how to pronounce."

Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West.
[...] Officials are targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes because they can spread dengue fever [...]
The trial planned by mosquito control officials and the British company Oxitec would release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a birth defect that kill their progeny before reaching maturity. The idea is that they will mate with wild females and their children will die before reproducing.

First of all, I do not buy this "non-biting" business. If you are a mosquito, you bite. Especially if you are a member of a superspecies of mosquito. You'll be smart enough to go, "The hell with this non-biting crap, I'M-A GO GORE THE NEAREST LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIAL, HAHAHAHAHA, 'CUZ I'M A MOSQUITO, B**TCH." This trait is hard-wired.

Also, notice the article doesn't go into much detail about what the über-mosquitoes will be like. So I must admit there is a very small chance of this being a positive development. For example, what if they turned out to be, oh, I don't know, doctor mosquitoes? Large, urbane, speaking bugs with white coats and stethoscopes and Lexuses? Of course this only raises even more scientific questions: would they get their own soap operas? How about their own comic strips with names like "Rex Mosquito, M.D."? But one thing we can know: if this scenario came to be, our insurance companies would never cover it. ("Dear ED PHILLIPS: We regret to inform you that Despair Mutual cannot cover your BLOOD DRAW on October 18 by Dr. KLAUS McSTINGER. Reason for refusal: NOT A ROUTINE PROCEDURE - DOCTOR WAS JUST HUNGRY.") Still, I guess this sort of development could benefit biodiversity, right?

Wrong. Let's read further in the article:

The district's website says the modified genes will disappear from the environment after the mosquitoes carrying it die, resulting in no permanent change to the wild mosquito population.

That's right. They aren't going to keep the mosquitoes around. On the contrary, they're just meant to DIE OUT AND BE OF NO FURTHER USE TO HUMANITY WHATSOEVER, like telemarketers, but slightly more likely to pronounce your name* right. This is why I've decided I'm against science, as a general omniprescence on Earth, like Dunkin' Donuts. Clearly, it exists only to complicate what's there, making it even more bleedy, stingy and buggy than it already was.

And frankly, if we did create a mutant super-species of intelligent mosquitoes, you can bet your life the floundering economy will be completely busted by the resulting calamine lotion deficit. So the hell with it.

Still, even if we never see the übers, let us not forget we still have roughly 7 quadrillion regular mosquitoes to deal with. And lest you forget, here in America we have a saying: "When we have a wealth of perfectly good diseased scummy smelly stinging little pests on hand, we are DARNED WELL going to PUT THEM TO WORK." We could put them to work in the following industries:

- Used car sales (they could sell the Ford MustSting)
- Opera extras (they could sing in Wagner's Die MeisterStinger)
- Chandelier sales (they could make a fortune off a product called EncephaLights)
- University teaching assistants (actually this has already been done)

Oh, but no-o-o-o. Instead, we keep on breeding the same old non-thinking, non-doing, space-wasting, government-style mosquitoes who are slightly less likely to contribute to society than that family who got a television show on account of they have something like 47 children, all named "Jebediah".

In other words, they are a hopeless species. And so are the mosquitoes.

Unless, of course, this is all a cunning front on the part of the Aedes aegypti - an artful, intelligent pretense of muteness and uselessness - and they're all actually sitting behind me here, hovering silently, just waiting to bite the bejeezus out of my arm for having writt.... hey............. OW (THUD).

* Well, maybe they do pronounce your name right. My name gets turned into noises normally associated with the Heimlich Maneuver.