DARPA is no stranger to developing controversial technologies. From stealth aircraft to the internet, DARPA’s hand in shaping the world we live in is sometimes hard to spot, but it’s nonetheless present; often operating just beyond the veil of technology we’ve come to take for granted in our everyday lives.

Sometimes, DARPA’s endeavors are misunderstood or misrepresented by nations or organizations with a vested interest in hindering their work. Sometimes their endeavors are shrouded in secrecy and misrepresented by the agency itself. In either regard, gleaning the second and third order effects of some DARPA projects can sometimes seem nearly impossible — with misinformation, disinformation, and humanity’s knack for taking the technological ball and running with it in new and interesting directions, all conspiring against any kind of accurate prediction.

One such program that is raising the concerns of American opponents and allies alike is DARPA’s Insect Allies project. Put simply, the endeavor aims to arm insects with genetically engineered viruses for rapid distribution. The stated goal of this endeavor is as a means of inoculating American crops from both natural and man-made threats by infecting plant life with viruses that will change their genetic makeup.  As DARPA puts it:

National security can be quickly jeopardized by naturally occurring threats to the crop system, including pathogens, drought, flooding, and frost, but especially by threats introduced by state or non-state actors. Insect Allies seeks to mitigate the impact of these incursions by applying targeted therapies to mature plants with effects that are expressed at relevant timescales—namely, within a single growing season.