Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Released in Brazil, Malaysia…

Concerns are raised about the GMO mosquitoes which cannot be re-called.

When did the governments ask their citizens about releasing mosquitoes?

By Andrew Pollack
October 31, 2011

Researchers on Sunday reported initial signs of success from the first release into the environment of mosquitoes engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, killing them before they reach adulthood.

GMO mosquitoes are also intended to carry out mass vaccination campaigns, as explained by Microsoft's Bill Gates.

The results, and other work elsewhere, could herald an age in which genetically modified insects will be used to help control agricultural pests and insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

But the research is arousing concern about possible unintended effects on public health and the environment, because once genetically modified insects are released, they cannot be recalled.

Authorities in the Florida Keys, which in 2009 experienced its first cases of dengue fever in decades, hope to conduct an open-air test of the modified mosquitoes as early as December, pending approval from the Agriculture Department.

“It’s a more ecologically friendly way to control mosquitoes than spraying insecticides,” said Coleen Fitzsimmons, a spokeswoman for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

The Agriculture Department, meanwhile, is looking at using genetic engineering to help control farm pests like the Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, and the cotton-munching pink bollworm, according to an environmental impact statement it published in 2008. Millions of genetically engineered bollworms have been released over cotton fields in Yuma County, Ariz.

Yet even supporters of the research worry it could provoke a public reaction similar to the one that has limited the acceptance of genetically modified crops. In particular, critics say that Oxitec, the British biotechnology company that developed the dengue-fighting mosquito, has rushed into field testing without sufficient review and public consultation, sometimes in countries with weak regulations.

“Even if the harms don’t materialize, this will undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the research enterprise,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of international health law at Georgetown University.

The first release, which was discussed in a scientific paper published online on Sunday by the journal Nature Biotechnology, took place in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in 2009 and caught the international scientific community by surprise. Oxitec has subsequently released the modified mosquitoes in Malaysia and Brazil.

Luke Alphey, the chief scientist at Oxitec, said the company had left the review and community outreach to authorities in the host countries.

“They know much better how to communicate with people in those communities than we do coming in from the U.K.” he said.

Dr. Alphey was a zoology researcher at Oxford before co-founding Oxitec in 2002. The company has raised about $24 million from investors, including Oxford, he said. A major backer is East Hill Advisors, which is run by the New England businessman Landon T. Clay, former chief executive of Eaton Vance, an investment management firm.

Oxitec says its approach is an extension of a technique used successfully for decades to suppress or even eradicate pests, which involves the release of millions of sterile insects that mate with wild ones, producing no offspring.

But the technique has not been successfully used for mosquitoes, in part because the radiation usually used to sterilize the insects also injures them, making it difficult for them to compete for mates against wild counterparts.

Oxitec has created Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species that is the main transmitter of the dengue and yellow fever viruses, containing a gene that will kill them unless they are given tetracycline, a common antibiotic.

In the lab, with tetracycline provided, the mosquitoes can be bred for generations and multiplied. Males are then released into the wild, where tetracycline is not available. They live long enough to mate but their progeny will die before adulthood.

The study published on Sunday looked at how successfully the lab-reared, genetically modified insects could mate. About 19,000 engineered mosquitoes were released over four weeks in 2009 in a 25-acre area on Grand Cayman island.

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About Luis Miranda
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4 Responses to Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Released in Brazil, Malaysia…


    Dead Scientists do not lie, she had no history of depression or illness as a matter of a fact this woman had everything to live for. Cyanide….she supposedly took Cyanide in a Seedy Hotel in Florida. Yeah Right.

    This was a great scientist and a friend to so many of us with a 3 year old son. I am not buying this version of the story. She knew what was going on.


  2. A year or two ago I read several stories on Bill Gates doing this very same thing, releasing Mosquitos full of Denque fever to the Cayman Islands as an experiment, they veered off course and wound up in Florida, more than one person got sick, then he sent more mosquitos with the anti seum to do exactly what this article says, that was the last I heard of it until now, so what happend to Bill Gates, did he turn this over to someone else, this is the same thing isn’t it? I have all the articles and it sounds like the same thing to me.

    What good work? it seems that nowadays anything can be genetically modified, if they can clone animals and probably people , they can do almost anything. I don’t find anything good about interfering with nature the way we have been doing, it usually backfires in some way, lioke Florida did and then it is swept under the rug like Bill Gates experiments, but in his case they popped up again, interesting. Amazing they can geneticlaly modifiy a mosquito and probably a gnat but they can’t find the cure for diabetes. Things are getting more curiouser and curiouser.

  3. Norman says:

    I wonder, what are the possibilities that one of the GMM might pass a mutant gene on to some offspring, which could then lead to a “Super Mosquito[s]” somewhere along the line. It seems this is happening to the “GM crops” already. This “mad scientist” altering of the genetic[s] may turn out to be ugly, as once out of the laboratory, other elements enter into the picture. As humans have altered the ecological landscape, both in environmental as well as animal, perhaps we are doomed as a species, but we just don’t think we are?

  4. saratbondada says:

    It is interesting how they have these mosquitoes are genetically modified. Keep up the good work!