A couple of months ago, British-based biotechnology company, Oxitec, received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release approximately one billion genetically modified male mosquitoes in Florida and Texas, the decision took a step closer to reality after state regulators then approved the idea, despite the objection of many environmentalists and scientists.
The purpose of the planned release is to supposedly help fight diseases that normal mosquitoes infect people with, like malaria, for example. For this specific release, the lab-altered patented bugs are members of the Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that spreads diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and chikungunya. They’ve been genetically altered to artificially reduce future mosquito populations.
We are being told that the plan is to unleash these insects so they can mate with female mosquitoes and produce weak offspring that never make it to adulthood, thus reducing the total population and in turn reducing the rate of disease spread. Male mosquitoes don’t drink human blood, and since all of the mosquitoes are male, there is apparently nothing to worry about, but this simply isn’t true. Releasing nearly one billion genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment raises multiple causes for concern, and a percentage of the released insects will still be genetically modified females that are capable of biting humans and other animals, more on that below.
Why This Is Important: It’s important to ask why the independent scientists who have been raising a cause for concern about this new technology are being ignored, and if federal health regulatory agencies like the EPA and biotech giants like Oxitec actually hold more power and influence when it comes to receiving such approval. Do we really know what goes on behind the scenes within these federal health regulatory agencies? The CDC SPIDER is one of many great examples that has emerged throughout the years. If history tells us anything, one common theme seems to be corruption and the deliberate destruction of data that hinders the corporations plans.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that these mosquitoes have already been released around the world. Multiple regions in Africa have been subjected to this, and from 2013 to 2015 Oxitec released millions of them into neighbourhoods in Jacobina, Brazil. In this case, some of the gene-edited mosquitoes passed their genes to the native insects, causing concerns that they created a more robust hybrid species.
They found that some of the genes from the genetically modified mosquitoes had transferred to the native population. In other words, some of the offspring had survived and were strong enough to reproduce. This new population is a hybrid of Brazilian mosquitoes and the genetically modified mosquitoes that were created from strains in Cuba and Mexico, according to the study, which was published Sept. 10 in the journal Scientific Reports.
In fact, the genes that were passed on weren’t the tweaked genes that were designed to kill and tag the mosquitoes but rather genes from the strains in Cuba and Mexico, according to Science magazine. The researchers also noted that this mixing of genes might have led to a “more robust population,” perhaps one that would be better able to resist insecticides or transmit diseases, Science magazine reported.
Oxitec has always opposed science coming from independent scientist, and the science used to gain approval for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment comes straight from the corporation.
Critics have accused Oxitec of a lack of transparency. Earlier this year, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany examined information regarding the release of modified insects into the environment in Malaysia and Grand Cayman, which were carried out by Oxitec. The scientists’ findings suggest that there are “deficits in the scientific quality of regulatory documents and a general absence of accurate experimental descriptions available before releases start”.
There are various concerns such as, what happens if someone receives a bite from one of these mosquitoes? The company had widely publicized that they were only releasing males, which don’t bite. But it turns out that their method of sorting males from females is flawed, and thousands of biting female mosquitoes are released. In addition, their method to create non-viable offspring is also incorrect. Between 3%-15% of the offspring survive and prosper. This can obviously equate to millions of biting females, born from a genetically engineered family tree.
The potential exists for these genes, which hop from one place to another, to infect human blood by finding entry through skin lesions or inhaled dust. Such transmission could potentially wreak havoc with the human genome by creating “insertion mutations” and other unpredictable types of DNA damage. (Joe Cummins, long time genetics professor at Western University, London, Ontario)
Todd Shelly, an entomologist for the Agriculture Department in Hawaii, said 3.5 percent of the insects in a laboratory test survived to adulthood, despite presumably carrying the lethal gene.
Another factor to consider is this:
Tetracycline and other antibiotics are now showing up in the environment, in soil and surface water samples. These GM mosquitoes were designed to die in the absence of tetracycline (which is introduced in the lab in order to keep them alive long enough to breed). They were designed this way assuming they would NOT have access to that drug in the wild. With tetracycline exposure (for example, in a lake) these mutant insects could actually thrive in the wild, potentially creating a nightmarish scenario.
It’s also important to note that there is there is no specific regulatory process for GM insects anywhere in the world. Oxitec seems to have infiltrated the decision making process around the world, and they have a close relationship with multinational pesticide and seed company, Syngenta. Oxitec has already made large-scale open releases of GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil and is developing GM agricultural pests, jointly with Syngenta.
Where have we seen this before? Not long ago I wrote an article about Glyphosate, an active ingredient within Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and how it was recently re-licensed and approved by the European Parliament. However, MEPs found the science given to them was plagiarized, full of industry science written by Monsanto. This is just one of many examples. You can read more about that story here.
A report released as far back as 2012 from GeneWatch UK, Testbiotech, Berne Declaration, SwissAid, and Corporate Europe Observatory explains:
Regulatory decisions on GM insects in Europe and around the world are being biased by corporate interests as the UK biotech company Oxitec has infiltrated decision-making processes around the world. The company has close links to the multinational pesticide and seed company, Syngenta. Oxitec has already made large-scale open releases of GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil and is developing GM agricultural pests, jointly with Syngenta.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is one of several examples showing how industry organises its influence. In EFSA´s GM insects working group, which was established to develop guidance for risk assessment of genetically engineered insects, there are several cases of conflicts of interest, including experts with links to Oxitec who only partially declared their interests. The draft Guidance on risk assessment of GM insects shows some significant deficiencies: for example it does not consider the impacts of GM insects on the food chain. Oxitec’s GM insects are genetically engineered to die mostly at the larval stage so dead GM larvae will enter the food chain inside food crops such as olives, cabbages and tomatoes.
Living GM insects could also be transported on crops to other farms or different countries. EFSA has excluded any consideration of these important issues from its draft guidance. Many other issues are not properly addressed. A World Health Organisation (WHO)-funded project has allowed the company to bypass requirements for informed consent for the release of GM mosquitoes. The WHO-funded Mosqguide project, which was supposed to be developing best practice, also allowed the company to gain approval from Brazilian regulators to release 16 million GM mosquitoes before draft regulations on the release of GM insects had been finalised or adopted, without publishing a risk assessment.
The report also outlines how Oxitec influences regulation around the world, which include:
- Attempts to define ‘biological containment’ of the insects (which are programmed to die at the larval stage) as contained use, by passing requirements for risk assessments and consultation on decisions to release GM insects into the environment.
- Attempts to avoid any regulation of GM agricultural pests on crops which will end up in the food chain.
- Avoidance of any discussion of how GM insects can be contained at a site, or products produced using GM insects can be labelled
- Exclusion of many important issues from risk assessments, including impacts of surviving GM mosquitoes on the environment and health, and impacts of changing mosquito populations on human immunity and disease
- Failure to follow transboundary notification process for exports of GM insects correctly
- Undermining the requirement to obtain informed consent for experiments involving insect species with transmit disease
- Attempts to avoid liability for any harm if anything goes wrong
- Pushing ahead with large-scale open releases of GM mosquitoes before relevant guidance or regulations are adopted
The amount of environmental, health and food-safety issues that this is creating among many scientists around the world in the field is quite overwhelming. There is a lot of information out there and many publications that clearly oppose these decisions. This ‘quiet’ release of genetically modified insects that has been happening for a few years now. The information presented in this article is simply a tidbit, and I really wanted to emphasize how the only one’s approving the release are the corporation, their science, and their claims. They do this by the power they (the corporation) exercise over federal regulatory agencies.
Why do we continue to be subjected to, and allow our environment to be subjected this type of ‘experimentation’ against our will? Are there other agendas at play here besides the ones we are told, the ones used to justify these actions? Why do corporations and government agencies have the authority and ability to do something that could have long lasting, and quite large health and environmental consequences? How are they able to sneak their way through any type of appropriate regulation and safety testing? Why are these decisions going forward despite the concerns raised by so many scientists, health and environmental organizations? Why are there always conflicts of interests? Why has the mainstream heard nothing of this, and why aren’t the concerns being addressed appropriately? What’s going on here?
We’ve created a pyramid system, we are on the bottom, the government is above us, and the corporations are above the government because they dictate government policy. The corporations get their money from the big banks, who sit above the corporation. Is this something we want to keep playing with? Why are the people and so many activists rendered completely powerless in their/our ability to stop these efforts. Why do we keep playing with and participating in the political process when all it does is hand our power over to people who don’t really have humanities best interests at heart, and have the ability to take such actions?
There are so many initiatives like this and many others that are being rolled out on the human population without our consent, and as a result many people are experiencing a shift in consciousness, a shift in the way they view our world. We have to ask ourselves, why do we live the way we do and think the way we think?