Activists concerned over survival of GM mosquitoes

| 13/08/2012

_52709255_z3410208-colour_sem_of_a_fe.gif(CNS): An environmental activist group is still raising concerns about numerous errors and omissions in the risk assessment process regarding a UK company’s research into the use of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes.  GeneWatch said Oxitec’s release of these engineered insects in large numbers including 3 million in the Cayman Islands in an experiment to reduce the incidence of the tropical disease dengue fever lacked consultation. Using the Freedom of Information system in the UK the environmentalists found many issues surrounding the experiment were not properly considered including invasive mosquito’s becoming established at release sites and the potential for large numbers of GM mosquitoes to survive.

Large numbers of the GM mosquitoes were also released in or Brazil as well as Cayman and a smaller number Malaysia which was the only place the activists say there was consultation with the public.

“Failure to publish risk assessments before trials of GM mosquitoes in Cayman and Brazil, and the omission of known adverse effects, is irresponsible”, said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatchUK “People cannot give informed consent to trials if they are not given complete information.”

The release in Cayman took place in 2010, in East End, officials from the Mosquito Control and Research Unit here stated that the experiment was safe as the male GM mosquitoes were infertile and therefore couldn’t breed. The local officials said that research results showed a decline of some 80% in the local pest’s population in the area of the release.

However, the activists have persistently claimed that the GM mosquitoes’ sterility is partial and conditional. “The GM mosquitoes do breed and most die at the larval stage: the extent to which their offspring survive to adulthood is one of many factors which influences the efficacy and safety of this approach,” the environmentalist group stated.

Some of the results of Oxitec’s experiments have been released to the press but they have not yet been published in scientific journals and the activists claim that the experiment was ineffective which is a matter of particular concern in dengue endemic areas. “In some situations partial or temporary suppression of mosquito populations could make the dengue situation worse,” GeneWatch said in a release.

Aside from not  correctly following the procedure for trans-boundary notification of shipments of GM mosquito eggs overseas the activists criticize the firm and the UK government over the failure to publicise risk assessments prior to open release trials. They say numerous important issues were not properly considered before millions of GM mosquitoes were released in to the environment in the Cayman Islands and Brazil.

Smaller experiments in Malaysia did include a consultation process, however there were some deficiencies with the process, GeneWatch suggested.

“In its publicity about the trials, Oxitec has oversimplified the complex relationship between Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, other mosquito species, the humans that are bitten, and the four serotypes of dengue virus,” GeneWatch said. “This means that most potential adverse impacts have effectively been excluded from public debate, the risk assessment process, and the process of seeking consent from local populations.

Documents now held by GeneWatch obtained through FOI requests are also said to show that the UK and Brazilian governments agreed in 2007 to test and commercialise the technology in Brazil, based on claims made by the company that it would be effective.
“A new production facility has now been built in Brazil to increase GM mosquito releases to 2.5 million per week. “The rush to commercialise Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes in Brazil could be putting people’s health at unnecessary risk,” said Dr Wallace. “There has been no attempt to consider human immunity effects or to monitor the impacts on immune response or the incidence of dengue”.

"The decision to scale-up experiments in Brazil appears to be driven by a political agreement to commercialise Oxitec’s technology there, rather than by a thorough assessment of the likely risks and benefits," GeneWatch said..



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

About the Author ()

Comments (21)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe they could genetically engineer mosquitos that only bite wayward politicians.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As far as I know Cayman rarely has dengue fever,  and I do not know about this reserch, but I do live in Newlands and I can say that they have a new type of mosquito there that it bites similar to a sandfly, you cannot see it like the big black mosquitos, and it is not the "gapnipper"as the other one is called. If they wanted to do reserch on dengue fever they should have released them in someplace like Honduras where people die from this type of fever yearly! Personally I believe there is something else behind this.



  3. Anonymous says:

    How is it possible that the MRCU could do (or facilitate) this experiment without government at least informing the public? And how is it that the UK govt could have a right to use us as guinea pigs to experiment with as they please? For far too long the MRCU has acted with immunity and impunity, literally spraying us to death, with god only knows what kind of chemicals, in order to try to irradicate mosquitoes, whilst neglecting to do one thing that every other modern country has had to do, which is to destroy the mosquitoes habitat. But, you may say, how dare I even suggest that we should touch our precious “mangrove wetlands”?! Heaven forbid we do such a thing, because the DOE would have a fit! Let me say this, no matter how much you hug a mangrove bush, it won’t turn into a giant oak or eucalyptus and it is high time we got our heads out of you know where and come to terms with reality. Mosquitoes are still by far the most deadly animals on earth. But, we shouldn’t be conducting experiments to try to eradicate them, any more than we should be spraying known carcinogens and diesel oil on our population to kill them, when there are other safe, tried and true methods to eradicate mosquitoes. Let’s hope that this experimentdoesn’t go seriously wrong and create some sort of super mutant mosquito that we can’t kill with conventional methods, because god only knows what they would resort to then. But, then again, we would probably never know, would we, whilst our population continues to develop cancer at the highest rate in the world…

  4. Knot S Smart says:

    Next thing we will be importing is iguanas that will breed with the ones that we have now and this will reduce their population just like how it reduced the mosquitoes…

  5. Anonymous says:

    I reckon the GM ones are probably better for us than whatever that plane is spraying.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I'd love to know:-

    1. How much Oxitec paid to have their little experiment at our expense?

    2. Who received the above money?

    3. What happened to the above money?

    Find out the answers to these questions and you will be shocked.

    "Just over three million male mosquitoes were released in the Cayman Islands this year. Oxitec sent the GM eggs to the islands, which are a British overseas territory, and they were hatched and grown at the MRCU.
    Angela Harris, senior researcher at MRCU, told SciDev.Net that her unit consulted with several Cayman Islands’ government departments beforehand.
    “Currently there is a draft biosafety bill, and despite the fact that this bill has not yet been implemented we carried out a risk analysis and review of the trial as if this bill was already in place.”
    She said that there had been a newspaper article and public consultation within the Cayman Islands."

    Ms. Harris, would you care to tell us which newspaper you announced in and be so kind as to pass on the list of people that actually the attended the alleged public consultation?


    Luke Alphey, research director at Oxitec, said an extensive risk analysis was carried out and “we did lots of engagement work in Cayman,.." Oh really?



  7. Anonymous says:

    This lack of informing the local people has been going on for decades.

    A lot of local scientific experiementation by MRCU has been done but government is not admitting it due to the huge liabilities  they would face. How many persons at MRCU alone have died of strange cancers?

    So why has there not been any cancer research been done locallyy?

    • Anonymous says:

      You hit the nail on the head. Cancer rates on this island are astonishing. People don't know anything about electromagnetic pollution, don't see the difference between wild and farmed fish, HPV Vaccinate  their girls thinking it is good thing to do.. For over 100 years, the American  population has been the unwitting lab rat in a huge uncontrolled biological experiment. Everything from Preservatives and MSG to Food Dyes to Irradiation has degraded our nutritional state and contributed to a break down in health. Saccharine to Aspartame, DDT to PCB’s to Pthalates to BSA and on and on and on. The FDA says they are all at safe levels, but when you add them all up, you have been “eaten to death termites”. We are literally drowning in an ocean of sub-lethal doses of substances you were not designed to eat. Now lets use chemo to cure us from cancer that was cased by FDA approved nutrition, it was well designed and scientifically tested under proper conditions…. 

      It may be, environmental causes of cancer have proliferated in the past half-century, to the degree that medicine cannot keep pace. I would suggest an answer, if not the answer, is to aggressively treatthe environment. By consistently pleading economic hardship as an excuse to evade global environmental responsibilities we are condemning to death or misery numberless people, and causing at least as much economic hardship as we have evaded.
  8. Anonymous says:

    Mosquito activists..?? Whatever next?

    • 14:30 says:

      Dont worry they will all soon be tagged and given status.  Mosquito activist?  I can see why every insect can take over the Cayman Islands.  We have no say at all.

  9. Anonymous says:

    "The technology  you'd developed far greater than your ability to use it responsibly…Your society is on the verge  of becoming a product of your technology, rather than your technology being a product of your society…. you will destroy your world with your environmental suicide. You are dismantling your home planet's ecosystem and continue to say that you are not. As if that were not enough, you are tinkering with the biochemistry of life itself. Cloning and genetically engineering, and not doing so with sufficient care to have this be a boon to your species, but threatening instead to make it the greatest disaster of all time. If you are not careful, you will make the nuclear and environmental threats look like child's play…    By developing medicines to do the work that your bodies were intended to do, you have created viruses so resistant to attack that they stand poised to knock out your entire species".

    by Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God, book 3, chapter 17


  10. Anonymous says:

    One, the researchers are taking away something from the mosquitos so an "allergic reaction" to these mosquitos is impossible if "regular" mosquitos don't produce the same reaction.  
    Two, because these trials do not involve humans, there is no consent needed.
    Three, GeneWatch has an agenda and it is not that of public welfare.
    Four, the trials worked.  I hope they introduce more of these.  The mosquitos in the swamps of Prospect are unbearable.

  11. Shocker says:

    "GeneWatch said Oxitec’s release of these engineered insects in large numbers including 3 million in the Cayman Islands in an experiment to reduce the incidence of the tropical disease dengue fever lacked consultation." – How come under this government so many things lacked CONSULTATION. Is it a UDP marking that whenever they are in CONSULTATION is not sought… like the expat policy.  I can blame PPM for misjudgement and mismanagement of our finances to an incoming recession in 2008, but the UDP marking is presently worrisome the longer they are in. 

    • Anonymous says:

      hmmm  "a UK company's research" 

      Did the UDP even had a say in the research?  I couldn't imagine sinisterly pointing the finger at the current government.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe the mosquito supplier hired a local real estate consultant instead?

  12. NHB says:

    I've had two of my relitives after getting bitten by mosiquito's have serious allergic reactions, one ended up in the emergancy room needing a shot to control their situation, I've never seen reactions like that to a misquito bite before, and I'm sure others have as well, I think there is more than been told with this case.



    • Anonymous says:

      Are your relatives from somewhere with few or no mosquitos? Reactions to mosquitos change over time and normally become much milder with more exposure. The same thing happened to a visiting relative of mine (from Ireland) well before the GM mosquitos were released in 2010 – so I think this is relatively common. 


    • Anonymous says:

      I've seen people get a bit upset about a bite, but never to the point they need to be shot.  That is extreme.

  13. Anonymous says:

    What is this dingy fever! Is that what the premier has?