Oxitec is proposing to release its genetically modified (GM) OX5034 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the US states of Florida and Texas. The EPA has opened a public comment period. Oxitec's application says, "Female offspring of the OX5034 mosquitoes in the environment are expected to die before they mature into adults and therefore exposure to biting female mosquitoes is not anticipated." However, experience with another strain of Oxitec mosquito, OX513A, shows that Oxitec's claims that its GM mosquitoes are self-limiting are unreliable. The GM mosquitoes ended up breeding with native mosquitoes, transferring their genes into the natural population and forming hybrid mosquitoes that may be more vigorous and have a different disease-carrying potential. Please write to the EPA objecting to the release.
Under the headline, Malaria trial pays Africans to be bitten, The Times of London reports that human “guinea pigs” in the West African state of Burkina Faso are being paid to expose themselves to mosquitoes that could potentially carry malaria or other diseases. Although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $70 million in the project, The Times reports that about 25 African “volunteers” in the village of Bana are being paid just 69 cents (£0.55) an hour to expose their legs for six hours a night to all mosquitoes in their local environment, as part of a GMO mosquito trial. The villagers taking part have been given information sheets warning them that they could be bitten by a mosquito and be “infected by malaria or another sickness transmitted by the mosquito”. According to The Times, for each six-hour shift, between dawn and dusk when the insects are most active, the villagers are paid just $4.17 (£3.30) a night “to compensate for fatigue and time given”. As part of this, they are expected to try and capture the mosquitoes that come to bite them. The information sheet also says they will be tested regularly for malaria.
Scientists are planning to release millions of man-made mosquitoes in Brazil and Colombia in 2017. The $18-million project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves mosquitoes that have been infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which stops viruses from growing inside the mosquito and therefore from being transmitted between people.