Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes

Emagazine.com  features an “Earth Talk” column which answers questions about the environment. A Sustainable Life will occasionally share some of these Q&A’s with you.

Dear EarthTalk: I couldn’t believe my ears: “genetically engineered mosquitoes?” Why on Earth would they be created? And I understand there are plans to release them into the wild?

Yes it’s true, genetically engineered mosquitoes, which were bred in the lab to transmit a gene during the reproductive process that kills their offspring, have already been used on an experimental basis in three countries—the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil—to counteract the quickly spreading mosquito-borne viral infection dengue fever. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 100 million cases of humans infected with dengue fever—which causes a severe flu-like illness and can in certain instances be fatal—occur annually in more than 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries.

Oxitec first released some of the genetically modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Island in the Caribbean in 2009, much to the surprise of the international community and environmental advocates, many of whom are opposed to genetic engineering in any of its forms due to the unknown and unintended side effects that unleashing transgenic organisms into the world could cause.

In Brazil, where the largest experiments have been carried out to date, the government is backing a new facility designed to breed millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes to help keep dengue fever at bay.

Dengue fever isn’t considered to be a big problem in the U.S. as yet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most of the dengue fever cases showing up in the continental U.S. are among those who have travelled to sub-tropical and tropical areas of the world. Still, WHO reports that the incidence of dengue fever in the U.S. has increased some thirty-fold over the last half century.

A proposal by Oxitec to test its transgenic mosquitoes in the Florida Keys has some locals upset. In April 2012, the town of Key West passed an ordinance prohibiting the release of the mosquitoes pending further testing on possible implications for the environment. In the meantime, Oxitec has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a patent on their mosquito and permission to release them in the U.S.

Tell me what you think about this……

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by john wheeler on September 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    I see a science fiction thriller coming out of this, only it will be REAL. No genetic engineered misquitoes please.

    Reply

  2. Posted by john on September 6, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    If they want to experiment – try it in Puerto Rico THEY CURRENTLY HAVE 1,113 CASES OF DENGUE

    Reply

  3. Posted by john on September 6, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    If you want to see your Mosquito threat – U can see it at friocon.org The site is not current as there was not enough interest in Dengue Fever or West Nile Virus. But if enough people are interested to see WHERE their mosquitoes are in their neighborhood – they might get it current. Currently Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston Texas are getting all of the attention.

    Reply

  4. Posted by john on September 7, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Send the experiment to Puerto Rico – see the problem First Hand @

    http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/del_us_human.html

    Reply

  5. Posted by David on September 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    The mospquito is a major food source for birds and bats and frogs and all sorts of things. Remember in Arizono they put a bounty on coyotes until they all disappeared and then Arizona became overrun with rats. What will no mosquito’s bring????

    Reply

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