Bloomberg’s Flock of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Probably Coming to Eat Us


Over the weekend, Mayor Bloomberg quite generously donated $350 million to Johns Hopkins University, bringing his total contributions to his alma mater to a whopping $1.1 billion. The Times has the exclusive story of Bloomberg’s philanthropic track record, including fun mayoral trivia (he’s 70! he claims he’ll give away his entire $25 billion before he passes away!).

And while we can’t knock our mayor for being such a staunch supporter of education, we couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at one of his pet causes — genetically modified mosquitoes.

Dr. Peter Agre, the Nobel Prize winning professor who runs Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, tells the Times that Bloomberg “always asks about the mosquitoes” and dreams of “building a better mosquito.”

Seriously? In theory, we do support a political campaign against the obnoxious bugs, but wouldn’t a better mosquito be one that couldn’t bite us? Or at least one that didn’t leave an itchy welt? Or — and we’re really settling, here — one that couldn’t suck our blood?

But alas, Bloomberg isn’t focusing on these most pressing mosquito issues; instead, he’s just trying to make sure the pests can’t transfer malaria. (If you completely tune out the fact that the mayor is funding genetically-modified mosquitoes, it’s actually kind of cool.)

In protest of the mutant super-bugs, we decided to figure out how many un-Bloomberg-y things we could drop a billion on, if given the opportunity.

We could score roughly 83.3 million packs of cigarettes — way more than we could smoke in our lifetime. Obviously, we’d follow the mayor’s lead and be generous with our nicotine stash, and never say no to the random dude bumming smokes outside the bar again.

Or maybe, we’d be environmentally conscious with our money (and our addiction) and buy e-cigarettes instead. We found a starter kit online for thirty bucks (it comes with a USB charger, so you can plug your cigarette into your MacBook, you hipster), so we could get around 33.3 million of those. Sure, we’d have to spend a little extra to keep supplying them all with cartridges, but we’d look so cool puffing vapor at The Jane, no?

Remember when you could still smoke in restaurants? There’s something about sitting in a booth at our favorite diner, dragging on a menthol and digging into a fresh slice of key lime pie, that we’ll always get a little misty-eyed over. Our particular haunt had a vintage cigarette vending machine, sort of like this one we tracked down on eBay. Supposing we could find 999,999 more of them, we’d open up our own museum.

Or, we could save ourselves the hassle of chemo and pick a different vice instead. A billion dollars would buy us a little more than 500 million two-liters of soda. Yum. Should we invest in Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb?

If we really wanted to support our sugar habit, we could donate our dough to the NAACP or the Hispanic Federation. Both organizations have accepted cash from Coke and Pepsi and are opposing Bloomberg’s restrictions on large-volume soda sales in state Supreme Court.

Supposing the ban is instated — which seems likely, given that it’s already been approved and is slated to go into effect in March — we could buy a fleet of vans to smuggle the newly-contraband carbonated beverages into Manhattan. We’d be like really, really lame drug dealers.

All fun aside, the mature thing to do is take up our grievances with the mosquitoes themselves. With 143 million cans of insect repellent, 90 million citronella candles, and 250 million yards of mosquito netting, we might be able to save the city from the GMO bugs when they inevitably evolve and break out of their temperature-controlled center at Johns Hopkins to storm New York.

What do you think? If you had a billion dollars and were trying to irritate the mayor of New York City, what would you buy?