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[genet-news] RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: Malaysia to release GM mosquitoes into the wild



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   MALAYSIA TO RELEASE GM MOSQUITOES INTO THE WILD

SOURCE:  SciDev.Net, UK

AUTHOR:  Shiow Chin Tan

URL:     http://www.scidev.net/en/news/malaysia-to-release-gm-mosquitoes-into-the-wild.html

DATE:    02.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Malaysia will soon take the controversial step of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild as part of an experiment to test their survival in natural conditions. The move was approved by the country's National Biosafety Board last month and will make the nation the first major country in the world to release GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for field testing - second only after the Cayman Islands in 2009."

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MALAYSIA TO RELEASE GM MOSQUITOES INTO THE WILD

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia will soon take the controversial step of releasing genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes into the wild as part of an experiment to test their survival in natural conditions.

The move was approved by the country's National Biosafety Board last month (10 October) and will make the nation the first major country in the world to release GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for field testing - second only after the Cayman Islands in 2009.

The mosquitoes, known as OX513A, have been developed by Malaysia's Institute for Medical Research (IMR) and the UK-based biotech company Oxitec to control the dengue virus, which is transmitted by A. aegypti.

A total of 4,000?6,000 male GM mosquitoes are expected to be released within the next couple of months, along with a similar number of unmodified male mosquitoes.

The male GM mosquitoes mate with normal females to produce larvae that are unusual because of an extra enzyme they produce. This enzyme accumulates in the larvae to a level where it becomes toxic and kills them. The larvae's only hope for survival is if the antibiotic tetracycline is present - because it mops up the enzyme.

The developers hope male GM mosquitoes will compete with normal males for females so that repeated releases cut numbers of A. aegypti in dengue-prone areas.

The mosquitoes will be released in the inland districts of Bentong in the state of Pahang, and Alor Gajah and Melaka in the state of Malacca, according to the National Biosafety Board. Each location will have two release phases: the first at a site 0.5?1 kilometres from the nearest human settlement, and the second at an inhabited site.

They will be recaptured using mosquito traps, which will be monitored for at least one month, while the inhabited release sites will also be fogged with insecticide when the experiment is over.

The board made its decision after its Genetic Modifications Advisory Committee (GMAC) analysed the risk factors for the experiment. The issue was opened for public consultation from 5 August to 4 September.

Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir, head of the GMAC, told reporters last month (29 October) that the committee had been concerned that lab tests had shown that three per cent of the offspring of male GM mosquitoes and normal females actually survive into adulthood rather than dying as larvae as intended.

Ricarda Steinbrecher, a geneticist and co-director of EcoNexus, a UK-based non-profit research organisation, said that it is not clear how the offspring of the male GM mosquitoes survive into adulthood and do not die as 'programmed', but it raises the possibility that they could breed and pass on this - as yet unknown - mechanism for overcoming the lethality.

"I would suggest that it is far too early for any open field releases. More data are needed from laboratory experiments. Furthermore, trials in field cages [large outdoor enclosures made from netting, i.e. confined field trials] are needed," she said.

The advisory committee had also been worried that female GM mosquitoes might accidentally be released. The technicians separate the male from the female GM mosquitoes based on the size of the  pupae - the stage after the larval stage - and is therefore not completely accurate.

Because of this, Parveez said, the board has insisted that scientists sort through the pupae twice - first mechanically and then manually.     

The 'self-limiting' strategy theoretically poses little threat of genes being released uncontrolled into the environment because of the death of the offspring. But future strategies, in which the aim is to overwhelm mosquito populations with those that are resistant to disease, are more controversial because the mosquitoes survive and breed.

A Malaysian geneticist, who declined to be named, said he hopes the experiments will be carried out under rigorous safety protocols.

"We have the best laws on biosafety in the world, but the problem is the enforcement," he said.

Liow Tiong Lai, health minister of Malaysia, told a press conference last month (10 October) that the Malaysian government views the GM mosquitoes "as one of the most efficient and fast ways of getting rid of the Aedes mosquito from our local environment".



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   WHAT IF GM MOSQUITO TRIAL GOES WRONG?          

SOURCE:  The Sun, Malaysia

AUTHOR:  Cheah Hooi Giam

URL:     http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=53820

DATE:    09.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Within the context of the Biosafety Act (which governs the release), the issue of redress and liability is absent. Who would the people of Bentong seek redress from if the GM mosquitoes release resulted in detrimental effects? Would it be from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, IMR or the UK firm?"

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WHAT IF GM MOSQUITO TRIAL GOES WRONG?          

I AM concerned with the approval given for the trial release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in Bentong.

There has been no concrete and independent scientific data to indicate that the release of GM mosquitoes would reduce the incidence of dengue fever. In the absence of clear scientific data, the precautionary principle must apply.

The public has been told that Bentong would be the second site (in the world) to host GM mosquitoes release. However, as recent as last year, the same UK firm (that the Institute of Medical Research collaborated with) also tried the release of GM mosquitoes in India; but this was met with resistance from the scientific community there. It may be argued that the decisions of other countries need not affect Malaysia?s ability to make its own decisions. But, what is the rationale of Malaysia, with limited scientific resources rushing to be among the first to use this untested biological control?

Within the context of the Biosafety Act (which governs the release), the issue of redress and liability is absent. Who would the people of Bentong seek redress from if the GM mosquitoes release resulted in detrimental effects? Would it be from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, IMR or the UK firm?

The authorities should put the welfare of citizens before that of commercial interests. They must obtain the informed consent from the majority of the population before approval is given for any trial release of GM mosquitoes.

Cheah Hooi Giam, Penang



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GENETICALLY-MODIFIED MOSQUITOES TO BE RELEASED ONLY IN UNINHABITED AREAS: LIOW                     

SOURCE:  The Sun, Malaysia

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=53757

DATE:    07.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Genetically modified male Aedes mosquitoes will be distributed in uninhabited areas in Bentong, Pahang, and Alor Gajah, Malacca, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. [...] ?We can easily destroy the mosquitoes. We can also detect and recapture them. The public has nothing to fear.?"

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GENETICALLY-MODIFIED MOSQUITOES TO BE RELEASED ONLY IN UNINHABITED AREAS: LIOW                     

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 7, 2010): Genetically modified male Aedes mosquitoes will be distributed in uninhabited areas in Bentong, Pahang, and Alor Gajah, Malacca, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. ?We are going to release mosquitoes into the environment to observe their characteristics. We want to see how far they fly, how long they live,? he said today, adding that the mosquitoes can be easily controlled if necessary. ?We can easily destroy the mosquitoes. We can also detect and recapture them. The public has nothing to fear. We will be releasing them in a controlled environment,? he said. [...]




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