Sunday, January 30, 2011

Malaysia Releases 6,000 Genetically Modified Mosquitoes into the Wild

Over the protests of environmental groups and NGOs, Malaysia has released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild, hoping to drive down incidents of mosquito-borne dengue fever. The experimental mosquitoes, all male, were engineered to produce offspring that quickly die in hopes that shortening life spans will thin the population of Aedes species (dengue fever is carried by females).The experiment was conducted less to see if the GM mosquitoes’ offspring would die off earlier and more to see how the 6,000 mosquitoes themselves would fare in the wild. That also happens to be the sticking point for environmental groups and locals who are incensed that the Malaysian government went ahead with the experiment over their protests. Tweaking genomes, critics say, could lead to unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences. It’s the first experiment of its kind in Asia, but naturally everyone isn’t thrilled with the idea of releasing altered DNA into the ecosystem.

This, to me at least, seems wildly irresponsible, releasing 6,000 mosquitos into the wild with no knowledge of the possible consequences. If the mosquitos somehow have other unforeseen genetic effects, it will be incredibly difficult to reverse these effects, as 6,000 mosquitos will produce too many offspring to possibly kill/control.

-Catalina Angel

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