"africanized bees" (Re: Insects not "lower animals"?)

Doug Yanega dyanega at mono.icb.ufmg.br
Wed Sep 10 08:05:32 EDT 1997

Neil Jones wrote:

>One example of the kind of unforseen problems caused by
>genetic experimentation is the creation of the africanised honey bee.
>A vicious strain of bees that have caused quite a few deaths.

While I agree with most of what Neil says, this statement is a drastic
misrepresentation of the facts. Basically, there is no "Africanized" bee -
genetic analysis indicates that the leading edge of the population, as it
swept through South America, Central America, and into North America, was
essentially pure, unadulterated African. NOT hybrids. The hybrids - such as
are extant in Brazil today - are in fact mostly African in constitution and
behavior (so calling them hybrids is sorta dubious), and slightly *less*
aggressive. There was no "creation" involved, just the importation of a
strain that nature had already selected for an aggressive and vicious
nature (there are a lot of honeybee predators in Africa) and their escape
into the wild. This was not a genetic experiment gone wild, but a
poorly-managed importation (one of dozens upon dozens in the last century
or so, and thus nothing unique).
Ultimately, the aim of the crossbreeding experiment may be realized - the
goal was a docile strain of bees that were adapted to tropical climate -
but only because folks are selecting the African bees here for less
aggressive and more productive colonies.

>The other problem with this technology beccoming more common place and
>easy to use is that of control. Just imagine the monsters a teenage genetic
>hacker might create.

I seriously doubt the average person is going to ever have the inclination
or money to buy themselves a genetic engineering laboratory for their
basement. I can't imagine such a thing as a "teenage genetic hacker", so
there's no need for me to imagine further. If this sort of thing was an
inevitable result of information and technology, we'd have had a lot more
"teen chemical hackers" blowing up themselves and their houses
experimenting with explosives, burning themselves to cinders, or poisoning
themselves with nerve gases and the like for the last several decades. The
materiel required is just as accessible as it is likely to ever be for a
genetics lab, but it doesn't happen that way.


Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-448-1223, fax: 031-44-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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