I read this yesterday in our news papers hear in West Virginia and had never heard of these before! I thought I would share this article 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?
— Marissa Abingdon, Sumter, SC
The British company behind the project, Oxitec, is focusing initially
on dengue fever, given that the particular virus which causes it is only
carried by one sub-species of mosquito. This makes the illness easier
to target than malaria, for instance, which is carried by many different types of mosquitoes.
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.
Some 80,000 people have signed onto a campaign on the Change.org
website calling on the FDA to deny Oxitec’s application. Mila de Mier,
the Key West mother who launched the campaign, is concerned about the
potential consequences of releasing an experimental organism on a
“Oxitec’s business goal is to sell genetically modified mosquitoes in
the United States,” said de Mier. “…we’ve already said we don’t want
these mosquitoes in our backyards, but Oxitec isn’t listening.” More
definitive scientific study is needed, she says, that looks at the
potential long-term impacts.
CONTACTS: Oxitec, www.oxitec.com; Change.org, www.change.org.
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