The GMO mosquitoes experiment has been one fraught with controversy, as the highly profitable (and critics say quite risky) organisms haven’t exactly been embraced by communities that have been targeted.
In Key West for example, a battle has raged for many months over the release of the mosquitoes, as the company Oxitec has attempted to foist them upon the local population.
Now a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project is planning to do the same thing in one African nation, with the sole goal being for experimentation purposes on an unsuspecting populace.
Risky GMO Mosquitoes Trial Set for Burkina Faso
According to a report from the website Sustainablepulse.com, GMO mosquitoes are set to be released on Burkina Faso through the Target Malaria organization, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This open release is acknowledged as having no benefits by the Gates Foundation, and is instead intended to “test the infrastructure and systems for a future release and for, as yet, experimental technologies, notably “gene drive” mosquitoes, as noted in this article from the Pulse.
The overall goal of the project is to eventually have an open release of gene drive GMO mosquitoes in hopes of reducing the population of a particular type of mosquito that can transmit the parasite that causes malaria; theoretically this would help reduce the incidence of the disease in Burkina Faso.
However, critics worry that there has not been enough testing done, especially considering the vast array of potential environmental responses that may take place as a result of this release. The number of potential scenarios is virtually endless, and many wonder if we should really be “playing God” in such a fashion, especially in such a diverse ecosystem.
Even if the release ends up being “successful,” the project would need many expensive further releases that would generally make the project cost prohibitive to continue in the long term before seeing any real benefits, critics add.
“Releasing risky GM mosquitoes into the environment, for absolutely no benefit whatsoever, is completely unacceptable”, said Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the African Centre for Biodiversity according to the Pulse. “We call for the application to be immediately withdrawn, or rejected by the authorities in Burkina Faso.”
“Conducting experiments with no potential benefit may be regarded as a waste of time and money,” said Lim Li Ching, Senior Researcher from the Third World Network. “Furthermore, medical research that poses risks but brings no benefits is unethical.”
For more on the release and the potential side effects of this controversial Gates-funded project, check out the full Pulse article by clicking here.
Future of GMO Mosquitoes Burgeoning Despite Continued Protests
Despite protests for groups ranging from Key West to Africa and no proven benefits, the GMO mosquito business continues to grow.
Oxitec, the British company that has been working in Key West, is said by PBS to be building a “new business model,” one “centered on miniature labs, where mosquito eggs can be raised and released into neighborhoods.
They’re hoping to set up shop Brazil with mobile (egg) production units to release the mosquitoes on command in neighborhoods where disease outbreaks and mosquito over-breeding are present.
However, the lack of long-term safety testing and concerns about how these mosquitoes will affect the ecosystem, as well as a lack of demonstrated concrete benefits, remain as questions.
The system is highly profitable however, as Biotech companies work with governments, directly bypassing citizen input in many cases in order to sell their unproven technologies as must-have solutions.
For more information on the future of the GMO mosquito industry, check out the full article from PBS by clicking here.