Sun | Jan 17, 2021

Shun genetically modified mosquitoes - UK company

Published:Saturday | November 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

With the Government examining several biological and chemical vector control methods to stem the spread of the chikungunya virus that is sweeping across Jamaica, one United Kingdom (UK) company is warning against the use of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes.

In a press release yesterday, GeneWatch UK warned that attempts by UK Trade and Investment to sell UK company Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes in Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica are based on misleading claims about the benefits and a failure to recognise the risks.

"Oxitec's GM mosquitoes have no proven benefits and bring unnecessary risks," said Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK. "Caribbean governments should not fall for the misleading sales pitch from the UK government or the company."

Oxitec's GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are being promoted around the world, are intended to be released in vast numbers to mate with wild mosquitoes. Their offspring are supposed to be genetically programmed to die at the larval stage, with the aim of reducing the wild-mosquito population.

No Dengue reduction

However, the press release stated that in Brazil, researchers have confirmed there has been no reduction in Dengue cases in areas where Oxitec has conducted experimental releases of GM mosquitoes, and Oxitec has also confirmed that it cannot show any reduction in disease. In fact, the statement continued, a dengue emergency has been declared in the town in Brazil where Oxitec's GM mosquito experiments are taking place.

Last week, Dr Kenneth Baugh, opposition spokesperson on health, suggested in Parliament that one method of vector control Jamaica could look at to minimise the mosquito population and hence stem the spread of chik-V, was the releasing of genetically modified mosquitoes in the wild.

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson responded that the ministry would examine it.