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Technology Fails and Creates Superhybrid Mosquitoes

The unexpected disastrous failure of GE Pest Extinction technology has occurred. A new “super” hybrid genetically engineered (GE) mosquito has been created, and no one knows what the implications and dangers are. These Super GE mosquitos cannot be recalled, they can spread across the world taking with them the possibility of new untreatable life-threatening diseases.

In Brazil, Oxitec Ltd released over 12 million transgenic (GE) male mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) engineered using a “lethal” antibiotic dependent gene drive technology. It was presumed and promoted that the GE technology would be able to drive to extinction mosquitoes that spread yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika diseases.

Pest Extinction, Oxitec’s "lethal" sterile technology, supposes that the descendants of the GE mosquitos would die before reaching sexual maturity as a consequence of inheriting one or more dominant lethal genes, leading to the eventual eradication of the mosquito population.[1] There were warnings about the lack of informed debate, ethical and cost risks [2] and studies on the possible problems from the small size, mating habits and early death of the GE males but these risks were felt to be acceptable due to the large release numbers.

Concern arose after 18 months when the initial reduction in mosquito numbers recovered to around the pre-release levels.

Evans et al. (2019) has now found evidence that a significant number of wild mosquitoes, 10-60%, have interbred and now carry some part of the “lethal” gene creating fertile hybrid mosquitoes. These mosquitos have been found in border regions far from the sites of release. [2]

The new fertile tri-hybrid mosquito offspring, crossed from three mosquito strains from Cuba and Mexico and the Jacobina population, are able to reproduce. The unknown, unforeseen effects have serious implications. There is the possibility of new transmutations of malaria, yellow fever, dengue and Zika in the hybrid population due to their enhanced traits (hybrid vigour).

"The ability to alter an organism through large-scale GE programmes has become a plaything for irresponsible commercial biotech ventures. It is extraordinary that researchers believe they can engineer evolution that has taken millions of years to evolve, without consequences,” said Claire Bleakley, president GE Free NZ.

The members of Te Aparangi-The Royal Society of New Zealand and Federated Farmers have been strongly backing in house self-regulation of the GE products and promoting legislative deregulation allowing the untraceable environmental release of GE organisms.

“This is a case of desperation to prove a need and to support an ideology, but ignoring or denying existing scientific evidence of the ‘off target' dangers of GE,” said Bleakley “Self regulation and weakening GE legislation will only add to dangers from unexpected, overlooked, adverse effects and must not be permitted.”

References:
[1] GM Mosquitoes Set To Be Released In Brazil To Combat Dengue https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/gm-mosquitoes-set-be-released-brazil-combat-dengue-0/

[2] Meghani Z, Boete C (2018) Genetically engineered mosquitoes, Zika and other arboviruses, community engagement, costs, and patents: Ethical issues. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006501

[3] Evans BR., Kotsakiozi P., Costa-da-Silva AL., Ioshino RS., Garziera L., Pedrosa MC., Malavasi A., Virginio JF., Capurro ML. & Powell JR. (2019) Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population. Scientific Reports Vol: 9, 13047 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49660-6

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