Male GM mosquitoes could be released at both inhabited and uninhabited sites in Pahang and Melaka in October or November, if the National Biosafety Board of Malaysia approves an application to conduct experiments.
The Aedes mosquito (OX513A strain) has been modified to include two new traits, fluorescence and ‘conditional lethality’, which means that in the absence of the antibiotic tetracycline, offspring from these males will die. The trial is aimed at finding out how long these GM mosquitoes will survive and how far they will disperse compared to the wild type non-GM mosquitoes.
If the Institute of Medical Research’s application is approved, up to 6,000 of these ‘non-biting’ GM mosquitoes and a number of non-GM mosquitoes will be released in the Bentong district of Pahang and Alor Gajah and Melaka district. The release will be carried out over two consecutive days during the second week of October or November 2010.
According to a fact sheet, each location will have two release phases. “The first phase will be a release at an uninhabited site approximately 0.5-1 km from the nearest human population and the second phase will be a release at an inhabited site. The size of the proposed sites can be up to 5km2. Releases will be carried out from a single point. A limited release of approximately 2,000-3,000 OX513A strains a day for 2 consecutive days or a single release of approximately 4,000-6,000 OX513A strains alongside the release of an appropriate number of wild type Aedes aegypti will be conducted in both inhabited and uninhabited sites. The experiments may be repeated.”
Check out the full fact sheet at the National Biosafety Clearing House’s website here.
This is one of the first few planned releases of GM mosquitoes anywhere in the world and raises many biosafety concerns, says an activist from the Third World Network (TWN): “I strongly urge you to submit comments, either as individuals or as organisations. Under the Malaysian Biosafety Act 2007, public consultation is mandatory for any environmental release of GMOs and the NBB will have to consider comments from the public. This is the first application that is going through the proper process in Malaysia since the Act was enforced.”
TWN was invited to a meeting by the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC), which provides scientific and technical advice to the Natural Resources and Environment Minister and the National Biosafety Board. TWN has already made its submission, objecting to the field release of these GM mosquitoes given the many questions and concerns it had.
More information on the IMR’s application can be obtained from the www.biosafety.nre.gov.my website here.
When submitting comments and objections, please quote reference number NRE(S) 609-2/1. They should be addressed to The Director General, Department of Biosafety, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Level 1, Podium 2, Wisma Sumber Asli, No. 25, Persiaran Perdana, Precint 4, 62574 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA. Email: [email protected]. Fax No: 03-88904935. The closing date for submitting comments is 4 September 2010.
If the approval for the experiments is granted, will the good people of Alor Gajah, Melaka district and Bentong be informed of the release of GM mosquitoes? (Why not conduct the experiments near Putrajaya?)