A cockroach breeding farm run by artificial intelligence in China is attracting the attention of insect experts concerned that any failure, human or otherwise, to contain the pests would result in the catastrophic infestation of nearby cities.

Used for medicinal purposes, the billions of cockroaches bred each year by China-based Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group are an ingredient in a “healing potion” used by millions of people in China to treat ailments such as gastric pain, respiratory illnesses and other issues.

Held at a farm that is nearly two football fields in size, the cockroaches are sealed into a warm, dark and humid environment ideal for reproduction. Data such as food supply, consumption, genetic mutations and temperature among others, is collected and analyzed by the AI system.

However, despite assurances that only a few people have access to the farm, alarms have been raised concerning the possibility of human error or natural disaster releasing the population and thus endangering the nearby city of Xichang.

"Multiple lines of defense must be in place and work properly to prevent the disaster of accidental release," said Professor Zhu Chaodong, head of insect evolution studies at the Institute of Zoology in Beijing.

According to Professor Chaodong, all it would take to infest just one neighborhood would be a dozen escaped cockroaches thanks to their ability to rapidly reproduce.

Experts are also concerned for the possibility that the genetic screening that takes place on the farm could also lead to a “super-cockroach.” However, Chaodong dispels that possibility.

“Mother Nature has already done its job. There is little room left for us to make improvements.” Chaodong added that the bugs have already outlived the extinction of many other species.

Despite these concerns, it isn’t likely that the ingredient will lose favor with consumers considering that many patients believe in its curative properties.

Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group representative Beijing Han Yijun noted that the “drug has been used in hospitals for many, many years and established an enormous number of fans.”

“It is a disgusting insect, but there are hardly any drugs on the shelves with the same effect,” Han said.

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