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POLICY & REGULATION: GM mosquitoes: Why not spent the money on improving drains and sewerage systems?



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GM MOSQUITOES: HORROR STORY IN THE MAKING?

SOURCE:  Free Malaysia Today, Malaysia

AUTHOR:  Humayun Kabir

URL:     http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/02/08/gm-mosquitoes-horror-story-in-the-making/

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "[Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar] said 3% to 4% of them would be female and could copy the role of the wild female Aedes to spread dengue. He said such biological suppression could not completely eliminate the species from the environment and the government would have to go on purchasing, releasing and killing the GM mosquitoes. ?We would need billions of these transgenic mosquitoes for an average sized city,? he said. ?Wouldn?t it be more logical and productive if that same sum were spent in improving the drains and sewerage systems in our urban areas??"

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GM MOSQUITOES: HORROR STORY IN THE MAKING?

Doc Jeyakumar makes some stinging comments about IMR?s anti-dengue programme.

SUNGAI SIPUT: The use of laboratory mosquitoes to fight dengue may turn out to be a catastrophic mistake, according to Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar, who is a respiratory physician.

The biggest danger, he said, was that the release of large numbers of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes into the environment could cause the transformation of the mosquitoes themselves or some other insect in some unanticipated manner that might be difficult to control.

Last Dec 21, the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) secretly released about 6,000 GM male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at a forest near Bentong to test their flight range and ability to survive in the wild. The field test was announced only late last month.

?The experiment was successfully concluded on Jan 5,? IMR Director Dr Shahnaz Murad said in a press statement. ?Fogging with insecticide was conducted on Jan 6 to eliminate all mosquitoes but monitoring will continue for up to two months.?

Jeyakumar said he could punch holes into this attempt to cast a safety net around the GM mosquito programme.

?The catch is that the two modalities of fogging and transgenic mosquito release are at loggerheads and cannot be used together.?

According to Oxitec, the British company that developed the GM mosquitoes, the offspring of the transgenic male and the wild female Aedes mosquito will die in the late larval stage if the environment is free of tetracycline, an antibiotic.

Fogging is used to suppress a dengue outbreak to ensure that all adult mosquitoes are killed.

Jeyakumar questioned the rationale of buying millions of transgenic mosquitoes at exorbitant prices only to kill them through fogging.

Improving drains

He claimed that the process of producing the male GM mosquitoes was not foolproof. He said 3% to 4% of them would be female and could copy the role of the wild female Aedes to spread dengue.

He said such biological suppression could not completely eliminate the species from the environment and the government would have to go on purchasing, releasing and killing the GM mosquitoes.

?We would need billions of these transgenic mosquitoes for an average sized city,? he said.

?Wouldn?t it be more logical and productive if that same sum were spent in improving the drains and sewerage systems in our urban areas??

He asked whether the Health Ministry would purchase the transgenic mosquitoes directly from Oxitec or whether there was a crony local company to act as middleman.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   NGOS EXPRESS SHOCK OVER GM MOSQUITOES MOVE  

SOURCE:  The Sun, Malaysia

AUTHOR:  Himanshu Bhatt

URL:     http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=57332

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) want the federal government to disclose the location where some 6,000 genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes were released last December in secret field trials. In a letter to the government, the 21 NGOs today asked for full details, expressing concern about the possible impact due to the release of the mosquitoes in trials that had previously been done only in the laboratory."

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NGOS EXPRESS SHOCK OVER GM MOSQUITOES MOVE  

GEORGE TOWN (Feb 8, 2011): A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) want the federal government to disclose the location where some 6,000 genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes were released last December in secret field trials.

In a letter to the government, the 21 NGOs today asked for full details, expressing concern about the possible impact due to the release of the mosquitoes in trials that had previously been done only in the laboratory.

The NGOs also asked that the site be monitored properly to identify adverse effects and ensure that remedial action is taken immediately.

The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) reportedly developed the GM Aedes aegypti mosquito, labelled OX513A(My1), in a joint research with UK-based biotech company Oxitec Ltd.

The National Biosafety Board (NBB) had in October last year approved the IMR?s application to conduct the field tests in Bentong, Pahang, and in Alor Gajah, Malacca.

On Jan 26, the IMR announced it had released about 6,000 sterile male lab mosquitoes, purportedly to combat dengue fever, in Bentong on Dec 21 last year.

Questions have been raised about the effect of the release of the modified mosquitoes on the environment and public health. There were also concerns about whether neighbouring countries had been informed of the release.

The NGOs said they were shocked that the field trials had been conducted, given that press reports last month indicated that they were postponed.

?To our knowledge, no attempt was made on the part of your ministries or agencies to correct this misperception,? said the NGOs in their letter addressed to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.

The letter was also addressed to NBB chairman Datuk Zoal Azha Yusof, who is also secretary-general of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, as well as Health Director-General Tan Sri Mohd Ismail Merican, Biosafety director-general Letchumanan Ramatha and IMR director Dr Shahnaz Murad.

The NGOs said the announcement was made more than a month after the mosquitoes were released.

?Once again, Malaysians were kept in the dark over actions that would affect their health and environment and were instead only informed after the fact,? they said.

?The risks associated with the GM mosquitoes cannot be dismissed, yet who will be held responsible should any adverse effect occur??



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   NEW AGGRESSIVE DENGUE STRAIN HITS THOUSANDS IN PERUVIAN AMAZON

SOURCE:  Digital Journal, USA

AUTHOR:  Paul Wallis

URL:     http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/303463

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A new and deadly strain of dengue fever has struck 13,000 people in the Peruvian Amazon region. 14 people have died, and approximately 1600 have been hospitalized. The outbreak has caught Peru?s health authorities by surprise. The new strain of dengue is particularly dangerous to children."

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NEW AGGRESSIVE DENGUE STRAIN HITS THOUSANDS IN PERUVIAN AMAZON

A new and deadly strain of dengue fever has struck 13,000 people in the Peruvian Amazon region. 14 people have died, and approximately 1600 have been hospitalized. The outbreak has caught Peru?s health authorities by surprise.

The new strain of dengue is particularly dangerous to children.

Dengue fever is a virus. There are two basic strains of dengue, usually referred to as dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccination against either strain. Dengue is endemic in Peru and the local strain is known as the ?Asian-American? strain.

The new strain, unlike the common endemic variety, causes shock in victims. Dengue is becoming a major problem in South America, with 125,000 cases reported in Venezuela in 2010 and approximately 1200 deaths in Latin America as a whole.

The new South American form of dengue is of particular concern to health authorities in the Americas because of its virulence and the fact that current favorable climatic conditions could encourage its rapid spread.

Dengue is in fact a global problem. It exists around the world in various forms and differing degrees as a public health risk.

In Saudi Arabia, authorities are warning of an increase in dengue cases after flooding in Jeddah.

In the Philippines, another country where dengue is endemic, public health campaigns are being waged to improve public awareness of preventative measures.

In Australia, the recent flooding in Queensland is reported to be responsible for an increase in cases of dengue fever in flood affected areas.

In Malaysia a 52% increase in cases of dengue fever has been reported, and genetically modified mosquitoes are to be employed to attempt to eradicate the mosquito species responsible for carrying the virus.

According to The Independent this methodology does have potential for success:

Last year Oxitec carried out a much larger field trial in the Cayman Islands involving the release of about 3 million GM male mosquitoes ? the first release of a GM mosquito into the wild. The company said that the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species that carries the Dengue virus, fell by 80 per cent.

Australia is also in the process of adopting the genetically modified mosquito approach to deal with dengue in Australia?s far north, where it?s been endemic since colonization.

The genetically modified mosquitoes, being males, don?t drink blood and pose no threat of infection.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   NGOS: REVEAL DETAILS OF GM MOZZIE RELEASE

SOURCE:  Free Malaysia Today, Malaysia

AUTHOR:  G. Vinod

URL:     http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/02/09/ngos-reveal-details-of-gm-mozzie-release/

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A coalition comprising 21 NGOs have urged the government to reveal the specific location where the genetically modified mosquitoes on Dec 21 were released. In a letter addressed to Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah Embas and the National Biosafety Board today, the NGOs also demanded that the government disclose full details of the trial release and its results."

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NGOS: REVEAL DETAILS OF GM MOZZIE RELEASE

A coalition of 21 NGOs have called upon the government to reveal the exact location of the release.

PETALING JAYA: A coalition comprising 21 NGOs have urged the government to reveal the specific location where the genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes on Dec 21 were released.

In a letter addressed to Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah Embas and the National Biosafety Board (NBB) today, the NGOs also demanded that the government disclose full details of the trial release and its results.

?Monitoring of the site must also be carried out properly to identify the existence of any adverse effects and to ensure that remedial action is taken immediately,? said the coalition?s spokesperson SM Mohamed Idris.

On Jan 26, the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) announced that it had released 6,000 GM mosquitoes of the aedes aegypti strain in an uninhabited area in Bentong, Pahang, in December to test their flight range and and its ability to survive in the wild.

IMR added that the experiment was concluded on Jan 5 and fogging was done the next day to clear the area. The place will also be montired for the next two months.

However, the experiment drew flak from several organisations such as the Third World Network (TWN).

TWN said IMR had proceeded with the tests despite assurance by the NBB on Jan 4 that the trial had been postponed due to public outcry.

Idris then criticised the government for ?silently? conducting the experiment despite announcing that the trial had been postponed pending public consultation.

?And to our knowledge, no attempt was made on the part of your ministries or agencies to correct public misperception that the trial was postponed,? said Idris who called for a sincere public discussion on the controversial issue.

Among the NGOs which signed the letter are Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Teras Pengupayaan Melayu (TERAS), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and Secretariat Ulama Assembly of Asia (SHURA)

The GM mosquito experiment is undertaken by the government to battle the ever increasing dengue epidemic in the country.

The GM mosquito carries a DNA fragment designed to curb its fertility. It was developed by Oxitec, an Oxford-based biotechnology company.

Last year, Oxitec carried out a field trial in the Cayman Islands involving the release of about three million GM male mosquitoes. The company said the local population of the Aedes aegypti fell by 80 per cent.