GM mosquitoes to be released in a trial
In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 2,000-3,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes would be released in two Malaysian states in October or November.
The insects in the study have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.
Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue fever, a sometimes deadly illness that has killed 100 people so far this year in Malaysia alone.
Gurmit Singh, a vocal environmentalist is alarmed. He thinks that too many risks are involved.
In its submission to the National Resources and Environment Ministry, which will conduct the trial, the Third World Network (TWN) expressed the following concerns:
1) Could female mosquitoes be accidentally released? The accidental release of females raises further concerns as they act as vectors for diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.
2) Could GE (genetically-engineered) mosquitoes and GE larvae survive and persist in the environment?
3) Could there be a surge of other disease-transmitting mosquito species if Aedes aegypti populations are suppressed?
Aedes albopictus may thrive if the Aedes aegypti mosquito population is suppressed. This is an indigenous species of mosquito to Malaysia, which also transmits dengue, as well as chikungunya. With a surge in Aedes albopictus, there will be a potential increase in incidences of chikungunya and possibly also dengue.
4) Could there be gene flow and effects on non-target organisms?
5) Are the monitoring and control measures proposed adequate?
6) Has the prior informed consent of local communities at the release sites been obtained?
7) Is there sufficient risk assessment and regulatory experience?
According to Wikipedia, the Third World Network is an international network of organizations and individuals involved in issues relating to environment, development and the Third World and North-South issues. It has its international secretariat in Penang, Malaysia.