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Should We Release Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes into the Environment?

Scientists in the US have managed to genetically engineer a malaria-resistant mosquito. The tremendous event has been hailed as the first of its kind and a breakthrough in the scientific community, but is all the speculation true? Is it a good idea to introduce these genetically engineered mosquitoes into the environment?

Now, your first impression is probably yes because scientist claim the mosquitoes could help eliminate malaria throughout the world. Why wouldn't you want to stand for such a cause? This is the type of heated rhetoric used during such a debate. Well, in this particular instance, only the good news has been reported as far as I have witnessed. Every story related to the creation of the genetically engineered mosquito is shed in a positive light. News columnist and scientist all over the world have hailed the find as a cure for malaria; currently bloggers and writers continue to do the same, yet no one has mentioned the possibility of negative side effects/scenarios.

Scientists in Japan have previously engineered mosquitoes which produce a vaccine in its saliva which is injected into the bloodstream when it bites. They too believe "flying vaccinators" could eventually be a radical new way of tackling malaria. But what if these mosquitoes carry vaccine protein that harm a large percentage of the population?

Other few points of interest:

1. The genetically engineered mosquitoes lifespan is 20% less when compared to natural mosquitoes. They claim the 20% decrease is modest when compared to a 50% decrease in malaria.

2. The GM mosquitoes do not enter a reproductive cycle or produce eggs when exposed to sugar.

3. They plan to release these mosquitoes into the environment in hopes of replacing the natural mosquito population.

4. The mosquitoes have no competitive advantage over natural mosquitoes.

For this to be successful, genetically engineered mosquitoes would have to "take over" the naturally occurring, disease-spreading mosquitoes. This means giving the GM insects a competitive advantage, something that has not yet been achieved. Researchers have been experimenting with genetic tricks. "Genetic Tricks," what is this? In this particular instance they are discussing the idea of boosting the mosquitoes genes to make them resistant to toxins which could be used against unmodified mosquitoes. Yea, this sounds like a good idea, create a genetically engineered mosquito which is resistant to toxins, then kill all the natural mosquitoes by releasing toxins into the environment. My friends, this is an ethical issue. How do we know what damage could occur to the environment from this 10-20-50 years down the road. I don't know about you, but I am against living in a world of man made mosquitoes. What if it mutates? What if the decrease in lifespan causes issues? (mosquitoes do play a role in our environment) What if this genetically modified mosquito becomes the carrier of something far worse? This study hasn't even been carried out on the Anopheles gambiae mosquito. "This is the major vector of malaria in Africa where the disease is most prevalent."

Bottom line: Contrary to what we have heard, not enough research has been conducted to release a genetically modified mosquito into the environment. Who are we, as a species, to question the planets inhabitants and try to genetically modify them with our science? This exact type of science has even led some people to believe humans were once genetically modified. If you enjoyed the article, share it, subscribe and follow The Real News Now on twitter or google.

They are trying to do a good thing, but this does not mean it will turn out well. These genetically modified mosquitoes could end up causing more harm than good in the long run.

Jon Lockton is a writer and investigative journalist for The Real News Now. He holds a bachelors degree in ancient history and a minor in law. He is acreddited with over 100 published articles.


Reference Sources
August 3, 2010


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