To those of you who have been eager to hear the latest news concerning the potential release of genetically modified mosquitoes – here it is. It turns out that the genetically modified mosquitoes could be released into the U.S. environment as early as January of 2012. A private firm plans to initiate the release of the GE mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. Florida will be the first beta testing grounds to determine whether or not the mosquitoes lead to detrimental environmental and genetic impact. Residents in this area will also be subjected — without choice — to these genetically manipulated insects, unless the private firm decides to seek permission.
Genetically Modified Mosquitoes | An Unknown Dangerous Experiment
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. A second trial occurred in 2010, where 6,000 mosquitoes were released in Malaysia for further experiments. 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.
Of course the risks these mosquitoes pose both on the environment as well as the health of all living creatures are highly unknown, leaving everyone with many more questions than answers. We have already seen how terribly genetic modification can threaten the environment and human health, yet people are still moving toward a genetically modified world. With the release of genetically modified insects could come the downfall of both local and global ecosystems as well as negative consequences concerning the food chain. There is simply no way of knowing what could happen by replacing the naturally born life forms on planet earth with genetically modified creations.
Some questions that still remain unanswered:
- Will Oxitec, the creator of the insects, need to acquire the free and informed consent of residents in Key West for the release of the GM mosquitoes? With the previous release of the mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands there was no public consultation taken on potential risks and informed consent was not given from locals.
- With 0.5 percent of the released insects being female (the gender which bites humans), what happens to humans if bitten by the female mosquitoes?
- What could happen to the ecosystem and local food chain with the major decrease in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population?
- Who will regulate the release, and who will be responsible in the event of complications – to any degree?
If Florida and the US approves Oxitec’s planned release of these genetically modified mosquitoes, we will become that much closer to future genetic modification of living creatures as well as the potential collapse of environmental and human health. Luckily, judging by the widespread opposition of genetically modified foods, it is likely that this experiment won’t turn into a reality without a fight.