GMO mosquitoes out of control

GMO mosquitoes out of control

After two years of releasing transgenic mosquitoes in Brazil, supposedly to combat the transmission of dengue, the manipulated insects interbred with the locals and prospered, contrary to what the multinational Oxitec claims that sells them.

The offspring were transformed into a species of super mosquitoes, which present higher risks to health and the environment than those that already existed before the experiment. Given that the same company has tried this type of experiment in Mexico, for example in Yucat√°n in recent years, there should be alert and monitoring of its consequences in the country as well.

As in numerous other cases with transgenic crops and animals (including those resulting from new biotechnologies such as Crispr and others), living beings obviously do not behave as in the projects or in the laboratory, and the result of releasing them is much worse than the problem that was said to attend. What is happening in Brazil now - which can be extended much further - is exactly one of the reasons why many of us oppose the release of GMOs.

This worrying case with manipulated mosquitoes was registered in Jacobina, Bahia state, after the experiment of releasing 450 thousand transgenic mosquitoes per week, for 27 months, between 2013 and 2015. The evaluation of results and the verification that the mosquitoes had reproduced and they are out of control in the environment, it was published in the magazineNature, in September 2019, in a study in which participating scientists took samples of mosquitoes at six, 12 and 27 months after the releases began.

According to Oxitec, the transgenic mosquitoes should interbreed, but not generate offspring, or that it was so weak that it did not survive, thus reducing the population of mosquitoes that transmit disease. His theory has not proven to work in any of the countries where it has been tried, since after a first reduction of mosquitoes, they return even in greater numbers. It has also not been seen to have any effect to combat dengue or another disease. In Jacobina, after the first year of release there was a notable and reported increase in dengue cases.

The authors of the new study found that contrary to the company's promises, the transgenic sequences were incorporated into the DNA of the natural population of mosquitoes and that there are hybrid, robust offspring that reproduce in nature. The mosquito strain used by Oxitec came from a cross between mosquitoes originating in Cuba and Mexico, so the one that now exists in the environment in Brazil is a hybrid of three countries. There are now more mosquitoes that transmit diseases, they have gained more vigor and could even multiply their resistance to insecticides.

The consequences of this new type of transgenic mosquito, feral and in free movement, are unpredictable, both in its effects on health, as in other mosquitoes and in the environment. It is estimated that they could also be crossed with other species of mosquitoes beyondAedes aegypti (the primary species that transmits dengue, chikungunya and Zika) and transmit its transgenic material also toAedes albopictus, or tiger mosquito, much more aggressive and difficult to fight.

The Oxitec company was bought in 2015 by Intrexon, a transnational synthetic biology company in the United States that is dedicated, among other things, to producing transgenic animals, such as salmon and cattle. Despite the alarms raised by the study, Oxitec-Intrexon continues in other states of Brazil with its experiments with transgenic insects.

For the Oxitec experiments, large public resources were contributed from municipalities and universities, spared from health budgets. An extensive report on the case by the Rede Brasil Atual news agency also shows that the Brazilian biosafety commission (CTNBio) acted intentionally with negligence to authorize the release, classifying the studies as low danger and without biosecurity risks. in addition to not requiring the prior, free and informed consent of the population that for more than two years has been exposed as guinea pigs by the company and the CTNbio.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also funds Oxitec for its transgenic mosquito experiments. This foundation also promotes the use of mosquitoes with gene drives, a highly risky technique to extinguish species in nature. In Africa, the Target Malaria organization, funded by the Gates Foundation, made a very poor consultation on the use of transgenic mosquitoes, preventing the population from having complete and critical information about the experiment to which they are subjected, something that members of the ETC Group were able to document directly.

In both cases, both in Brazil and Burkina Faso, it is clear that local populations are used by companies and foundations as laboratory animals, it is not a transgenic experiment with insects, it is also an experiment with humans - and with the entire ecosystem. - that he must be stopped immediately.

Silvia Ribeiro
ETC Group Researcher

Source: La Jornada

Video: The bold plan to end malaria with a gene drive (October 2020).