Genetically modified salmon could be next on your menu.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soon going to decide whether to approve GM salmon as food. See the story on Natural News here. (We have already seen the so-called ‘genetically improved’ fish tilapia. See WorldFish Centre website here.)

Colour print of the yellow fever or dengue mos...
Aedes Aegypti – Image via Wikipedia

A GM goat and GM pig could be next on the cards. See the Telegraph story here.

At the end of the day, it’s all about business interests and profits. Notice that one of the main concerns in GM salmon centres on the supposed sterility of the male:

But Lord Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said the new technology is not worth the risk.

“Once you have bombarded an animal with other genes, the DNA is unstable, and there is no guarantee these fish remain sterile. It poses far too great a risk to wild salmon. A fish that grows that quickly is likely to lose some of its environmental benefits. There is no such thing as a free salmon lunch and we will pay the price,” he said.

It will be a huge victory for the biotechnology industry if a GM animal becomes available for human consumption.

But in the UK, the public remains suspicious of ‘Frankenfoods’. A Food Standards Agency survey to find out what the public think of the new technology is currently stalling after two leading academics resigned in protest at the government body’s ‘pro-GM’ stance.

In the case of GM mosquitoes due for release in sites in Pahang and Malacca pending approval by the National Biosafety Board, the male mosquitoes are also supposed to be sterile. Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) has issued a letter expressing its concerns about these ‘Frankenmozzies’:

PROPOSED RELEASE OF GM MOSQUITOES ILL ADVISED

We refer to the public announcement by the National Biosafety Board of Malaysia about the application by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) for the release of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Pahang and Melaka (referred to as Living Modified Organisms or LMOs of the OX513A strain) (Reference No. NRE(S) 609-2/1). We have serious concerns and objections.

First of all, there is a lack of transparency and information about the genes involved in the genetic engineering of the mosquito. For example, how is this male LMO ‘created’? Is there not the risk of a margin of error that might allow female LMOs to be selected in the process? What are the sources of the molecular marker and the ‘lethal’ gene that will make the offspring of the LMO and a female Aedes aegypti die? This is very critical.

The technique apparently employed in this IMR project seems to be the one called “Released Insects with a Dominant Lethal” (RIDL) which is a tetracycline-repressible lethal system, utilizing the piggyBac transposon. If the key gene that confers the dominant lethal trait is tTAV, a protein, — and we do not know this for sure since the IMR refuses to release the information — then in the absence of tetracycline, the mosquito offspring of the LMO will likely die from the toxic effects of the over-production of tTAV. If such a gene is the one causing fatality to the offspring of the LMO, then what is the precise mode of action of the tTAV protein? Its mode of action and how it leads to the death of the mosquito offspring/organism exactly appear unclear and little understood. This should be clarified and investigated before any open releases are considered, as it may have environmental or health consequences as well as carry risks arising from horizontal gene transfer.

The public announcement and fact sheet do not look at the possibility of new health risks to humans and animals arising from the genetically modified mosquitoes, in particular if female LMOs are released accidentally or female progenies from the released male LMOs somehow survive. In relation to the latter, Phuc et al. [1] state that 3-4% of the first larval instar of OX513A do survive to adulthood. Thus the IMR fact sheet is not quite accurate in stating that the presence of the “conditional lethality trait” in OX513A progenies is fatal; “resulting in the death of the progenies in the absence of tetracycline”. The figure for 3-4% is given for laboratory experiments. What is the figure for field cage trials? Different conditions (biotic and abiotic stresses) need to be tested for changes in (a) the survival rate of OX513A mosquitoes and (b) phenotypic and behavioral characteristics.

Please let us briefly explain our concern regarding the use of a seemingly untested protein. As an example, Bt crops like cotton and corn are genetically engineered with the Bt-toxin gene from the soil-bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). There are many different forms of and genes for Bt toxins—the most commonly used are Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac. Cry1Ac has been found to be a potent immunogen. It binds to gut cells and is capable of causing changes in the permeability of the gut (e.g. [2-5]). Other examples of unpredicted immunogenicity or toxicity are two food products. In the 1990s, in feeding trials with rats (and mice), genetically engineered (GE) tomatoes in the US (Clagene) as well as GE potatoes in the UK [6,7] were found to cause damage to the gut and its mucosal cell lining. In both cases, the transgenes used were coding for proteins regarded as harmless when ingested by mammals.

Another major risk in the IMR project is horizontal gene transfer of the piggyBac insert, which contains the two transgenes. According to a paper by Ho and Cummins [9], the risk of the transgenes being transferred horizontally to other species is highly increased due to their combination with the piggyBac transposon. The risks of such transposons transferring to the genomes of the mammalian hosts should be investigated, including the possible transfer to laboratory animals used as blood meal donors for female LMO mosquitoes.

This is relevant at this present stage as there will potentially be females amongst the released LMO mosquitoes. The male LMOs have to be sorted from the females, and this takes place at the pupae stage, when males are generally smaller than females. This, however, is unlikely to be 100 per cent accurate. It is obvious that transgene escape can readily occur, whether horizontally or vertically (via sexual reproduction).

The enhanced possibility of horizontal gene transfer is only one possible effect of genetic engineering. Transgenes as well as the insertion of transgenes via genetic engineering are known to give rise to other unexpected, unintended, positional, synergistical, or pleiotropic effects [10]. As an example, one study in 2005 looked at GE peas that had been genetically engineered with a bean gene. Unexpectedly, the protein product from the bean gene changed its characteristics when produced in peas and caused immune reactions and inflammation in mice, not seen with the bean [11]. This provides evidence that a gene may behave differently when transferred from one organism to another, even if the two organisms are very close from an evolutionary standpoint.

The relevance of this for the given situation is that there are likely to be changes in the GE mosquito other than the intended or expected ones. These would include changes in genoptypic, phenotypic or metabolic levels as well as behavioural levels. Genetically engineering a mosquito, which is a vector of disease, may give rise to unexpected effects that may include negative impacts on human and animal health, for example, the insect may become more virulent, aggressive or its bite might have different effects on the host.
The proposal by the IMR to do fogging after the release is also fraught with contention. Fogging with resigen (active ingredients: S-bioallethrin and permethrin) means spraying communities and the environment with poisonous pesticides. Both are pyrethroids which have been linked to toxicity in humans including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and neurotoxicity as well as acute toxic effects such as coughing, redness, burning sensation/pain in the eyes and skin, dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, listlessness, vomiting, epigastric pain, muscular fasciculation [12,13]. These pyrethroids can be inhaled or ingested (directly or through water). Permethrin has also been found to have potential to be an endocrine disrupter [14]. Besides this, fogging is ineffective in controlling mosquitoes because it is not targeted but simply sprayed all over the area, allowing a large proportion of mosquitoes to escape.

Last but not least, involving the communities that will be affected by the release as well as the public at large is a matter of public trust. The effects of the genetically engineered mosquito including its molecular marker and the ‘lethal’ gene (assumed to be tTAV) on fish, frogs or other organisms present in the environment that might feed on it, and its possible effects on humans or other mammals have not been tested. Before any open release, this information must be determined, especially since there is risk of survival of the GE mosquito offspring.

Ample time should be given for public debate, information sharing and discussion before any decision is taken. The authorities should not make such decisions unilaterally; instead the free prior informed consent of the people should be first ensured. This is especially so in cases involving transgenics as it is recognised internationally that transgenic insects, especially mosquitoes (on which there are no agreed or finalised guidelines for biosafety assessment) are a particular challenge to risk assessors because they have very little information and guidelines to go on.

The objective of the Biosafety Act is to protect human, plant and animal health; the environment; and biological diversity. In this respect, the National Biosafety Board simply cannot approve the IMR application because it presents a risk in all respects.

SAROJENI V. RENGAM
Executive Director
4 September 2010

Gurmit Singh has also expressed concern: GM mosquitoes to be released in a trial (nowpublic.com)

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Open Your Eyes, Sharpen Your Minds, Change Your Hunger for GM food.
    Satisfying your hunger pangs now to regret later (or die) is foolhardy (foolishly adventurous and bold without thinking)

    What’s Wrong with Genetic Modification?
    Read tons of it here for your self education and survival sake.
    http://www.gmfoodnews.com/gmwrong.html

  2. How safe is GM food?
    (Even if it is DONATED ie FREE OF CHARGED & DELIVERED TO YOUR DOORSTEP)

    This goes to show how cold-blooded & cruel people can be in today’s world! Anyone in his/her right mind will NEVER deny food, be it GM or not, to starving & dying children, womem, man, baby. Worst, the so-called self-proclaimed religious & god-fearing people like you condon such inhumane act & in fact, celebrating such heidous crime, just to prove your (incorrect) views. People with a full stomach, a comfortable air-cond office, many credit cards & many wives maybe, can of course tell other poor guys to forgo this & that, since this suffering has got nothing to do with them. Much the same as in the case of GM mosquito. You can tell everyone to forget about using GM mosquito to control dengue, so long as you think yourself & your family won’t get it. I know these are the very hypocritical people who use insecticides and chemicals (from the big & corrupted companies) like hell in their home, but once outside is cursing the MOH, GM and big corporates & telling others how “holy” and environmentally conscious they are. This is a case of I-am-holier-than-thou and you-get-the-suffering/disease-not-me game. Soon, dengue/chik will catch up with you-it is just a matter of time!

    • Oh Mosquito wannabe,
      Go to a Pacific island, eat all the GM food to your heart’s content and breed as many GM Aedes aegypti as you like and may be, if you love it get bitten by these female fatale mosquitoes. Maybe become a hybrid of some sort!

      And don’t corrupt the minds of those not in the know about GM. Even after the fatal facts of GM have been presented.

      Self denial is the worst of denials.

  3. India tried GM Mosquitoes & it failed miserably.

    Indian public health experts are not at all excited by the news that American scientists have created genetically modified mosquitoes to help fight malaria, saying it had been tried here before and abandoned as a failure.

    ‘We tried genetic control in the 1970s and abandoned it,’ P.L. Joshi, director of the National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program in New Delhi, told IANS. ‘It seemed to work in the lab but failed at field level.’

    ‘Uncontrolled release of GM organisms to wipe out traditional mosquitoes also raises serious questions on ecosystems and public health,’ Rajagopalan said, adding he did not rule out the possibility of released GM insects becoming carriers of a human disease ‘they were never before able to transmit’.

    Read more: http://www.indiaenews.com/health/20070325/44638.htm

  4. How safe is GM food?
    (Even if it is DONATED ie FREE OF CHARGED & DELIVERED TO YOUR DOORSTEP)

    Editorial – Surely the donation of many thousands of tonnes of emergency food supplies should alleviate the suffering of millions of hungry people, should it not? Not, it turns out, when the food has been genetically modified.

    In southern Africa, hunger now affects some 14 million people. The USA has donated GM maize to help alleviate the crisis, but in Zambia the food rots in warehouses because the government believes it unsafe. President Levy Mwanawasa has even called GM maize “poison”, saying he is not prepared to “use our people as guinea pigs”. In some areas, citizens have rioted and looted to get to the food.

    Lack of safety is just one of the charges flying back and forth. Officials in the USA, where GM foods have never been as controversial as in Europe, view the arguments as baseless, pointing out that the donated food is the same that Americans have been eating for years. But critics claim that the USA is promoting biotechnology companies, using the UN to do its protectionist bidding, and offloading surplus food it cannot sell.

    Disadvantages, though, are that GM crops may threaten biodiversity, decrease the richness and variety of foods, and make farmers dependent on chemical and biotech companies, through the use of sterile seed or chemical products that would have to be purchased yearly. Health concerns include: allergenicity; gene transfer, especially of antibiotic-resistant genes, from GM foods to cells or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; and “outcrossing”, or the movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops, posing indirect threats to food safety and security.

    go to: http://www.biotech-info.net/how_safe.html

  5. Since most of you & the NGOs like the PAN AP are against anything insecticides & GM, I would like to suggest to you to practise what you preach. Plesae inform the Ministry of Health the addresses of your house as well as those of your members in your organisation and family members, so that the Ministry of Health will not fog these addresses when dengue/chikungunya occurs. Also do not use /buy any household insecticides like aerosol, mosquito coil, mat etc and no Abate addeded into all your containers. In short, no chemicals or GMO in all these houses. Let’s do this experiment for 6 months & see what happen. Of course, all of you have to agree in writing that if dengue/chikungunya happens or death occurs, you will have yourself held responsible, not the MOH. If your neighbours die or suffer, they reserve the rights to sue you. Come on, take this challenge to prove to the MOH once and for all, that dengue/chikungunya can be controlled/eliminated by mere cleaning and “environmental method”. There is no point sitting in your arm chair in your air-cond & comfortable office to keep telling the govt & the people to avoid insecticides/GMO, to do this & not to do that. Please be an example to the people & show the world that using your “environmental”methods, these dreaded killer diseases can be eliminated, while all other countries in the world fail. A Noble Prize is waiting for your breakthrough. But of course, if you are scared to death if the MOH does not spray your area when dengue outbreaks and death occur, then please keep your mouth shut.

    Please go ahead to reveal to MOH your house address and inform them you do not want your house to be fogged for 6 months. Come back here to tell us your success story- that is- if you or your family members are still alive!

    • Man has already opened the Pandora Box. It is irreversible and on course to fulfill mankind’s dreaded future. And a super power is way ahead of the rest in this adventurism of Science God of War, making it a legitimate act of terror of global proportion in the name of science. GM is a seemingly harmless benefit to mankind but is in fact one of a multitude of ‘legitimate’ acts of terror.

      see:http://www.whale.to/b/cantwell.html

  6. Honestly, GM, we die, no GM, we still die…

    Have been searching for quite a while or quite a long while, but still cant figure out or grasp hold of the meaning of life.

    Any smart Alec out there who has an answer?

  7. anil,

    dont worry much about GM.

    millions more people will die if food production not increased in the coming decades than those side effects from GM food.

    Anyway, we all going to die soon, its not as if we all live 1000 years. Enjoy life, worry less.

    Those who smoke cigarettes, drink excessive alcohol take Ecstasy, ganja, Viagra and heroin have worse lifestyle than those eat GM food.

  8. As for the GM mosquitoes idea…it has to be the crackpot idea of (a senior health official)…

    Let’s see…about 100 people have died of dengue this year. After releasing the GM mosquitoes…if this number remains the same or comes down…maybe no harm…unless GM mosquitoes cause an exponential rise n chikungunya.. But what if doesnt work and the dengue rates actually go up…is the MOH going to go around catching these GM mosquitoes…

    If idiots end up running every institution in this country…this will be the end result…

    • Interesting question – probably the same way as they did in Silent Running (one of my favourite ever movies):

      No hint that any of that was GM – I wonder if they ate the cute rabbits at the start? Looks nice, but I suspect if we go on any really long journeys into space, we won’t be eating fruit, veg, and bunny cutlets. It’s much more likely we’ll be eating either textured/flavoured moulds or something along the lines of Soylent Green / Singapore NuSpam.

  9. This frankenstein science was invented before the discovery of plasmids, transposons and exogenetics. We do not even know why 2 people of the same race look alike, let alone the workings of
    morphogenesis. It is like someone using a sthetoscope or x-ray machine to analyze a computer. Disgenuously, we are told that there is no difference between these hot-housed monsters and the battlefield of nature – where changes, whether introduced by mutation, plasmid transfer, virus alteration or breeding, get thoroughly tested.

    The results of meddling with genes called “engineering” have been unleashed on the biosphere, some
    even incorporating programmed infertility. In bacteria and plants, the new genes can easily infiltrate other species. In hospitals, microbes resistant to all available drugs are passing on the key genes for resistance to other species.

    GM crops have impoverished farmers in a number of countries, by degenerating, requiring massive
    amounts of “agricultural inputs” including seed for replanting. Meanwhile, the health industry benefits from strange new diseases.

    Limited independent animal tests suggest that GM food is deadly. Apart from banning identification of
    such junk food through labels, there is a deafening silence from “democratic” goverments of
    independent, extended testing.

  10. The sterility of the male isn’t just of concern to the cautious botanist. If the GM factory can’t guarantee sterility then it can’t establish dependency of the fish farmer on its product. Wasn’t this the same issue with grain so long ago? There’s no business proposition in making a fertile GM-modified product, because then the farmers would own all its descendants (unless you can patent or copyright DNA). If the product is sterile, farmers have to go back to the producer every season.

    • Another thing is time factor.
      Anything with business potential will have a time limit to product testing for perfect quality/conforming to safety standards which in this age of instant gratification and demand for quick profits from investors will not wait for thousands of tests before release to the markets.

      So, what guarantee is there for every GM product for the next 100 years?

      The bitter truth is usually after the fact! By then it’s too late!

  11. GM politicians.

    You can recognize them when they’re raving and ranting in Parliament like someone who urgently needs to go…

    Very much like a man in history who ran out of shaving cream half way through a shave.

  12. They say Perkasa is GM Umno, is that true?

    We don’t know what we don’t know, many technologies solve few problems but create other problems. But GM life form is more than science and technology, you cross the boundary! Unless you are agree with Stephen Hawking there is no place for god, the universe created spontaneous, so do us, therefore we could re-design ourselves, we change the world instead of adapting.

  13. Yeah, soon the whole world will be GMed, practically every species directly, indirectly or passively. Only the selected few invincibles of the new world order will be pure unadulterated species. The majority of us are eager guinea pigs, helpless and innocent, even defending the merits of GM, being stupidly unwary of the devious facts and consequences of GM. We can argue till the cows come home, but we can never unilaterally agree to the stopping of GM.

    The big Pharmas and scientists, they will be laughing all the way to the banks. And mind you, politicians holding the trump card of health/medical legislations are most likely seduced in the devious act too.

    Species of every kind are not intended for GM, cross-gene manipulation or hybrids since the creation of earth and Adam and Eve.

    Unless we harbor the desire to play Gods.

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