Available information on the free release of genetically modified insects into the wild is highly restricted
February 02, 2012
While genetically modified plants have already been introduced into the wild on a large scale in some parts of the world, the release of genetically modified animals is still at a relatively early stage. A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany has now published a study examining the free release of genetically modified insects in Malaysia, USA, and Cayman Islands. Their findings suggest deficits in the scientific quality of regulatory documents and a general absence of accurate experimental descriptions available to the public before releases start. The researchers call for clear and accurate descriptions of releases to be very widely circulated before insects are released in a trial - particularly if mosquito species that bite humans are involved. They also provide an innovative checklist to assist journalists and the public in assessing the scientific credibility of regulatory release authorizations.
Genetically modified insects are being developed with a view to suppress insect populations of the same species which spread human diseases, such as malaria and Dengue Fever, or that are agricultural pests destroying crops. The first generation of "designer insects" have been engineered to be fluorescently marked, to be sterile to varying degrees, or both. These insects are released experimentally to develop species-specific and chemical-free ways to reduce the size of insect pest populations.
A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology have now investigated the regulatory history of genetically modified insects, with a particular focus on the pre-release information available to the public in the first three countries permitting free releases: the Cayman Islands (mosquitoes, 2009-?), Malaysia (mosquitoes, 2010-2011), and the USA (moths, 2001-2011). The study centres on the US regulatory experience, which is currently being promoted as a global regulatory model for genetically modified insects.
Global deficits in transparency and public oversight
The world's first environmental impact statement on genetically altered insects was produced by US authorities in 2008 and has since then been used as a basis for approval of subsequent experiments around the world. The scientists raise some doubts about the scientific value of this environmental impact statement: for example the majority of novel transgenic approaches it endorses are based on just two laboratory studies out of approximately 170 scientific studies cited. These two studies focus only one of the four species covered by the document. Apparently, such deficits do not only apply to the US. "We noted that public access to scientific information is highly restricted throughout the world, particularly information made available before releases start", says Guy Reeves from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.
The Cayman Islands was in 2009 the site of the first free release of genetically modified mosquitoes. There were, however, some doubts about the relative strength of the legal safeguards that existed. The Cayman Islands had no enacted legislation specifically mentioning the release or transportation of living genetically modified organisms. In 2009 only 21 of the world's 191 countries also had not updated their existing environmental protection or animal control laws to specifically regulate living genetically modified organisms. While the Cayman Islands is a British overseas territory and consequently not a sovereign state, it is noteworthy that none of these 21 countries is thought to have approved any release of a living genetically modified organism.
The first and most obvious question of people living in the release sites of the genetically modified mosquitoes (OX513a) in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia, and Brazil is whether humans can be bitten by genetically modified mosquitoes. In public information available in the Cayman Islands and Malaysian trials, this obvious question is either conspicuously ignored or it is implied that the there is no biting risk, 'as only male mosquitoes are released and they cannot bite'. However, it is clearly detailed by the Max Planck scientists, that it is probable that transgenic daughters of the released males will bite humans. This is because the released males are more accurately described as partially sterile males, rather than the commonly used term sterile males - or most recently 'sterile' males.
A potential concern about the effects of humans being bitten by these genetically modified females is discussed. The context of this discussion is not to suggest that this technology is inherently dangerous. It is to highlight the fact that public confidence in regulators will be eroded, if written discussion of obvious and scientifically plausible concerns is conspicuously absent from all written documents. As far as the authors are aware there are no publically available documents that scientifically consider possible human health impacts of being bitten by transgenic females (beyond unsubstantiated statements in the general media).
Community engagement and consent requires transparency
The general lack of accurate information available before starting releases is problematic. This is because community engagement fundamentally requires that release descriptions be widely circulated before releases start. The need for high-quality community engagement, particularly in early releases, has repeatedly been argued as essential by expert scientists. "It is rather uncontroversial to state that in the absence of meaningful and accurate descriptions being made widely available, community engagement cannot credibly be said to have occurred", says Reeves.
If those that conducted the trials cannot produce pre-release written descriptions, then they need to explicitly state why meaningful community engagement and consent might not be necessary for experimental releases into towns and cities. Individuals providing justifications based on the pressing humanitarian need to rush development of this technology, must also explain why the same argument cannot be applied to clinical trials of vaccines.
Giving genetically modified insects a fair trial
Large numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes are currently being released in Brazil. Further releases are reportedly under evaluation in various countries, including France, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the UK. Proposed experimental releases are for both human health purposes and to control agricultural pests.
Given the enormous human burden of diseases like dengue fever and crop loss from insect attack, it is important that new control techniques are developed. Field trials are an essential step in the evaluation process. "However, we need an informed public to ensure that experimental testing of this potentially valuable technology can be given a fair chance and that testing does not needlessly provoke public mistrust", says Reeves. Avoiding the kind of questionable practices which characterized the commercial development of genetically modified plant is likely to be important.
Related Genetically Modified Current Events and Genetically Modified News ArticlesFighting the Colorado potato beetle with RNA interference
Colorado potato beetles are a dreaded pest of potatoes all over the world. Since they do not have natural enemies in most potato producing regions, farmers try to control them with pesticides. IU researchers identify pancreatic cancer patients who benefit from personalized treatment
Cancer researchers at Indiana University report that about 15 percent of people with pancreatic cancer may benefit from therapy targeting a newly identified gene signature. UVA prevents diabetic heart condition by magnifying effect of exercise
A researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine has magnified a benefit of exercise in mice to provide a "profound" protection from diabetic cardiomyopathy, a potentially deadly heart condition that affects many people with diabetes. Stellate cells in the liver control regeneration and fibrosis
Liver fibrosis, which is the progressive formation of scar tissue in the liver, is a massive medical problem. Scientists grow leg muscle from cells in a dish
A team of researchers from Italy, Israel and the United Kingdom has succeeded in generating mature, functional skeletal muscles in mice using a new approach for tissue engineering. Deconstructing mental illness through ultradian rhythms
Might living a structured life with regularly established meal times and early bedtimes lead to a better life and perhaps even prevent the onset of mental illness?Revealing the workings of a master switch for plant growth
Brassinosteroids, a class of plant steroid hormones, play an important role in promoting plant growth as well as a host of development processes including cell elongation and division, development of the xylem, which is used for water and nutrient transport, and adaptation to differing light conditions. New molecule protects heart from toxic breast cancer drugs
More people are now surviving cancer but it is estimated that 32% of them could die of heart disease caused by their treatment.Walking on ice takes more than brains
Walking across an icy parking lot in winter--and remaining upright--takes intense concentration.What does a GOP-led Congress mean for science -- and the public?
With Republicans now at the helm, Congress is gearing up to pursue a legislative agenda with potentially profound implications for science and how it informs policies on the environment, energy, health and agriculture.
More Genetically Modified Current Events and Genetically Modified News Articles
Foreign Invaders: An Autoimmune Disease Journey through Monsanto's World of Genetically Modified (GM) Food|
by The Difference Press
"A must-read for anyone dealing with health issues or wanting to learn more about eating cleaner, avoiding toxins, and improving diet!"
Whether or not you have a chronic illness or you are caught up in the autoimmune epidemic, genetically modified foods are a health risk. After being diagnosed with autoimmune disease and being disappointed by doctor after doctor, Dara Jones set off on a mission to recover her health with real food. In the footsteps of Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth, Dara takes you on her journey through Monsanto’s world of GMO foods. After reading it, you’ll be empowered to take the reins of your own health and will never look at your grocery store shelves the same way.
In this personal account of her ongoing health recovery from...
Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability|
by Bruno McGrath (Author)
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein This ebook points out the surrounding issues of genetically modified fruit and vegetables that consumers are unaware of. While several parties defend the use of technology to create food, it appears that little is being done to increase awareness about this matter to the end consumer. It also points out alternative food sustainability options such as organic farming and land management. This ebook will indicate that although some parties agree that genetically modified food items are cost effective and considered safe, its long-term results have not been adequately researched and the use of pesticides on these items are far higher than for other types farming or food products.
Genetically Modified Language: The Discourse of Arguments for GM Crops and Food|
by Guy Cook (Author)
The GM debate is as much a war of words as of facts. Food and farming are being changed forever - yet whether for good or bad is the subject of an increasingly bitter argument. Those promoting GM have mounted an intense campaign, characterising their opponents as terrorists and Luddites, governed by ignorance, irrationality and hysteria. Yet public opinion remains unconvinced and antagonistic. As the argument intensifies and the voices on all sides get louder, Genetically Modified Language cuts through the confusion and controversy to the issues and ideology at the heart of the disagreement.
Guy Cook subjects the language of the case for GM to a careful and detailed examination. He looks in turn at the persuasive strategies used by politicians, scientists, the media, biotechnology...
Genetically Modified Prophecies, Whatever Happened to all the Sand and Stars God Promised to Abraham|
by Victor Schlatter (Author)
Whatever happened to the promise?
...the one God made to Abraham that his descendants would be innumerable and what does that have to do with the rest of us today? As the world we once knew quickly unravels and the prophetic interpretations we once presumed credible crumble before our eyes, it s time to awaken to the possibility that the big-name visionaries of yesteryear may have zeroed in from the wrong angle. They told us as much as they saw, but after 1948, 1967, 9-11, and the current global disintegration, we see much more. Could it be that all those Abrahamic descendants are hiding in plain sight? Could it be that the Almighty was right after all? Genetically Modified Prophecies holds the key to understanding this prophetic predicament!
"Redemption is rooted in the...
Genetically Modified Organisms: Opening Pandora's Box with Genetically Modified Food|
by Choice PH
Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new crop traits as well as far greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.
This eBook highlights the history of genetic engineering and the advantages and disadvantages of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The advantages would be the speed with which a desirable change can be brought about in both plants and animals. The disadvantages to these rapid changes and what some people fear would be "Genetic Drift". Since GMO crops are planted like non-GMO crops, these GMO crops...
Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food|
by Nina V. Fedoroff (Author), Nancy Marie Brown (Author)
While European restaurants race to footnote menus, reassuring concerned gourmands that no genetically modified ingredients were used in the preparation of their food, starving populations around the world eagerly await the next harvest of scientifically improved crops. Mendel in the Kitchen provides a clear and balanced picture of this tangled, tricky (and very timely) topic.
Any farmer you talk to could tell you that we've been playing with the genetic makeup of our food for millennia, carefully coaxing nature to do our bidding. The practice officially dates back to Gregor Mendel -- who was not a renowned scientist, but a 19th century Augustinian monk. Mendel spent many hours toiling in his garden, testing and cultivating more than 28,000 pea plants, selectively determining very...
Genetically Modified Foods: Debating Biotechnology (Contemporary Issues Series)|
by Michael Ruse (Editor), David Castle (Editor)
Finally, the real story about corporate America with its increased reliance on consultants. Since the 1990s, consulting solutions have become the de facto standard for solving business problems and providing cover for corporate decision makers. This is not the typical CEO whitewash, or business management primer. Steve Romaine offers a view never before shared with management or stockholders as he takes a hired gun's journey beginning at the outside looking in, and ending at the pinnacle of a corporation's power.
Based on his experience of working for IBM, his later role as a self-employed consultant, and finally his responsibilities as senior vice president for NationsBank, Romaine makes it clear that the issues leading to the collapse of Enron were not isolated events. Soldier of...
GMO Free Diet: How to Stay Away from GMO's and Eat Healthy Food (The GMO Book - How to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods, Monsanto, and Harmful Chemicals)|
The Essential GMO Free Diet Book
Would you love to be able to learn and experience the wonderful benefits of having a GMO Free Diet?
You may not know now but as you read on you will find out EXACTLY just how quickly you can be healthy by learning and applying the GMO Free Diet Program!
* * *LIMITED TIME OFFER! 50% OFF! (Regular $5.99) * * *
Have you always wondered if genetically modified foods can be harming you?
Are you looking for ways to remove GMO's from your diet to ensure optimum health?
THE FACT IS: A GMO Free Diet is a diet program centering in natural foods.
YOU are going to learn how to apply a GMO Free Diet program into your life! We all want to be healthy...
Genetically Modified Food (At Issue)|
by Greenhaven Press (Editor)
•Greenhaven Press's At Issue series provides a wide range of opinions on individual social issues.
•Enhancing critical thinking skills, each At Issue volume is an excellent research tool to help readers understand current social issues and prepare reports.
•Extensive bibliographies and annotated lists of relevant organizations point to sources for further research.
Genetically Modified Planet: Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Plants|
by C. Neal Stewart (Author)
Genetically modified plants are currently causing controversy worldwide; a great deal has been written about their supposed environmental effects. However, the newspaper headlines and public debates often provide a level of reasoning akin to "this is your brain on genetically modified corn," which is to say, they exclude or exaggerate the actual scientific research on the impacts of these plants. Genetically Modified Planet goes beyond the rhetoric to investigate for concerned consumers the actual state of scientific research on genetically modified plants. Stewart argues that while there are indeed real and potential risks of growing engineered crops, there are also real and overwhelmingly positive environmental benefits.