This past Sunday researchers announced initial success regarding the environmental release of genetically modified mosquitoes which are designed to kill their own offspring before they reach adulthood. The first mosquito release took place in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in 2009. On Sunday, October 27, the release was discussed in a scientific paper by the journal of Nature Biotechnology with the report concluding the releases’ success.
The study involved about 19,000 genetically modified mosquitoes which were released in the Grand Cayman Islands over a 25-acre area for four weeks. To evaluate the effects concerning the mosquitoes and their impact on the overall mosquito population, researchers set traps to capture the mosquitoes for larvae analysis. According to the study, genetically modified mosquitoes made up 16 percent of the whole male mosquito population in the test zone, with the lethal gene present in 10 percent of the larvae analyzed.
The mosquitoes are genetically modified with a gene designed to kill them unless given an antibiotic known as tetracycline. Offspring of the GM mosquitoes will receive this same lethal gene which will kill the offspring before it can ever reach adulthood. As more genetically modified mosquitoes mate with wild mosquitoes, the idea is that more and more offspring will be produced with the lethal gene, thereby reducing the mosquito population.
Oxitec, the British company responsible for the creation of the genetically modified mosquitoes, created this internally manipulated insect to help control agricultural pests and reduce insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria. They received about $24 million from investors for their mosquito science project. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation contributed to Oxitec’s goal, as the foundation funded genetically modified mosquitoes back in 2010. In fact, the actions taken by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been contributing to genetic modification for years.
The problem with the release of these genetically modified mosquitoes is that we have no idea what effects they could have on the environment as a whole as well as public health. Once these creatures are released, it is impossible to un-release them. The last thing this world needs is more genetically manipulated animals and crops.
Supporters of genetic modification have no idea of the long-term repercussions this often profit-driven practice holds for the future. Genetically modified crops have been shown time and time again to pose serious health risk. A study published back in 2009 showed that three Monsanto genetically modified corn varieties posed real health risk. Another study conducted in April of 2010 found that genetically modified soy was linked to sterility and infant mortality. Cardinal Peter Turkson, a prominent member of the Vatican , even spoke out against genetically modified crops and deemed them a “new form of slavery”.
Who are we to manipulate nature? The truth is that we have no idea what the future holds for genetic modification and the potential impacts it has on the environment and public health. Genetically modified food isn’t even labeled, and people all around the world are growing serious concerns about consuming such foods. We know that the genetically modified mosquitoes are equipped with a lethal gene designed to lower the mosquito population, but what does that really mean for humans?