First synthesize new viruses then regulate their release? The case of the wild rabbit


Elena Angulo. Postal address: Estación Biológica de Doñana, Apdo. 1056, E-41080 Sevilla, Spain. Fax: + 34 954621125; E-mail:


European wild rabbits originated in southwestern Europe but have been introduced into many other countries world-wide, becoming serious pests in many instances. As a consequence of rabbits being regarded so differently, applied research for their management often has opposing goals, namely their conservation or their control. Furthermore, modern gene technology has led to the concept of using genetically modified myxoma viruses for rabbit management, again with quite contrary aims in mind. In this paper we explain the possible ecological and economic consequences of using these genetically modified viruses inappropriately and we consider whether national and international regulations are sufficient to prevent improper use. If international regulations are inadequate, molecular biologists and ecologists must consider the consequences of their research and advice beyond their own country to avoid unwanted impacts.