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Wolbachia Mosquitoes Released in Australian Towns – Up to 20,000

Mike Barrett
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June 26th, 2012
Updated 11/02/2012 at 7:14 pm
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mosquitoblackbackground 235x147 Wolbachia Mosquitoes Released in Australian Towns Up to 20,000

Do you remember how some scientists, researchers, and individuals like Bill Gates were trying to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment? Well, that endeavor isn’t quite over – sort of. Two towns in Northern Australia have recently been gifted with 10-20 thousand Wolbachia mosquitoes – almost completely replacing mosquitoes naturally occurring in the outdoors.

Wolbachia Mosquitoes?

Although the mosquitoes released aren’t exactly GM, they are still concerning, even if different than those from Oxitec. Oxitec is a British company responsible for the creation of the mosquitoes containing a gene designed to kill themselves unless given an antibiotic known as tetracycline. The company created this internally manipulated insect to help control agricultural pests and reduce insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

These new mosquitoes released in Australia, however, are developed with a slightly different strategy. A bacterium named Wolbackiapipientis infects numerous insects species, and harnesses the ability to alter it’s hosts reproductive ability. When this happens, entire populations become infected within generations, and when the bacterium infects mosquitoes, the mosquitoes’ ability to pass on the dengue virus vanishes.

Needless to say, numerous scientists, researchers, and many individuals have expressed concern regarding the release of Wolbachia mosquitoes. The first GM mosquito release by Oxitec took place in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in 2009, only for a second trial to occur in 2010, where 6,000 mosquitoes were released in Malaysia for further experiments. Now, 10-20 thousand Wolbachia mosquitoes were released in Australia, drilling the environment with even more experimental endeavors. As mentioned, many people are not happy about this.

Some individuals, such as Daniel Strickman, point out the obvious discomfort surrounding the possibility that the bacterium could become out of control once released – in a way that does not naturally occur in nature. In addition, mosquitoes less susceptible to dengue infection could in turn become more susceptible to other viruses.

Unfortunately, no peer-reviewed scientific proof of the safety of such biotechnologies can be offered. Long-term effects have not been at all measured, and once these insects are released, they can not be recalled. Here are but a few of the questions and issues regarding GM mosquitoes (or any GM insect for that matter). For Oxitec:

  • Will Oxitec need to acquire the free and informed consent of residents in Key West for the release of the GM mosquitoes? With the previous release of the mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands there was no public consultation taken on potential risks and informed consent was not given from locals.
  • What could happen to the ecosystem and local food chain with the major decrease in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population?
  • Tetracycline, the antibiotic Oxitec’s Wolbachia mosquitoes are supposed to have no contact with, is showing up in the environment. With tetracycline being present in the wild, these GE mosquitoes would survive and thrive.
  • Mosquitoes can develop resistance to the lethal gene inputted by Oxitec. In fact, 3.5 percent of the insects survived to adulthood in laboratory tests despite carrying the lethal gene, according to Todd Shelly, an entomologist for the Agriculture Department in Hawaii.
  • 0.5 percent of the released insects are female (the gender which bites humans); what happens to humans if bitten by the female mosquitoes?
  • Who regulates releases, and who will be responsible in the event of complications – to any degree?

The truth is that we have no idea what the future holds for genetic modification and the potential impacts it has on the environment and public health. We know that the Wolbachia mosquitoes contain Wolbachia to replace the naturally occurring mosquito population, but what does that really mean for humans? We simply do not know the potential outcomes that could arise from such experiments.

Additional Sources:

UpdatedNews

About Mike Barrett:
2.thumbnail Wolbachia Mosquitoes Released in Australian Towns Up to 20,000 Google Plus Profile |Mike is the co-founder, editor, and researcher behind Natural Society. Studying the work of top natural health activists, and writing special reports for top 10 alternative health websites, Mike has written hundreds of articles and pages on how to obtain optimum wellness through natural health.

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  • Mike

    What incredible rubbish is sometimes written on this website by people purporting to be "scientists". Take as one example "Safety towards humans must be tested over at least a 10 year trial period" – what exactly is that supposed to mean ? And consider – for a moment – what would have been the downside if this had been applied after the discovery of penicillin – the huge benefit to many thousands of injured / sick people would have been lost.

  • Al

    i live in queensland and it took searching for a local take on america for me to come across this. im disgusted to think the next time a swarm of mosquitos come through they could make me sterile. guess this form of population control is easier to hide than bombs and gun fire. put the people responsible for this in front of me and i will gladly pull the trigger

  • Greg

    Lets have a real discussion. Nothing scares me more than Monsanto's takeover of a top bee research firm in the US. THis firm was accusing Monsanto products of being the cause of CCD. Ain't capitalism great! Within weeks Monsanto was in Australia applying to release GM Honey bees in Australia. Australian honey bees do not suffer from CCD simply because we do not mistreat our bees like the US does (the same way they mistreat everything in that hell hole). The point is these are bees we are talking about. This could have very grave consequences for humanity let alone Australian farming if they are allowed to pursue this crazy idea.

    • http://healthtalkhawaii.com Patrick McGean

      The mosquitoes have been here prior to Monsanto and the chemists who think they are god.

      A blood sucking insect is not blood type sensitive it is ph sensitive. Change you ph and the blood sucker go elsewhere.

      Organic Sulfur when returned to the diet of man and beast are no longer feeding grounds for blood suckers.

      The Planet has been sulfur deficient since 1960, how does that date fit with modern malaria and dengue fevers?

      Even Aussies blood is has the wrong ph when organic sulfur is added.

      The race horses (their owners) do not fever West Nile for their million dollar horses, they eat organic sulfur.

      The Cellular Matrix Study

      Body Human Project est. 1999

      organic sulfur at sisna.com

  • http://www.nutritioncomparison.org James Banks

    This is nothing short of ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING, CRIMINAL and downright WRONG.

    These people who act as if they are God and think they can go around messing with Nature, messing with Life itself and the very future of Life on this Planet – need to be STOPPED.

    These kind of experiments have NOT BEEN SAFETY TESTED. Personally as a scientist myself, I would not be satisfied with such an experiment unless:

    1) Safety towards humans had been tested over at least a 10 year trial period

    2)there was some way to recall the GM mosquitoes in case somethign went wrong such as a bizarre unexpected mutation of the species.

    3)They were released somewhere far away from any humans or livestock.

    NONE of these conditions have been met.

    It is as if a deranged psychopath has somehow convinced the Goverment that 1) This is a good idea and 2) That they have the right to do this.

    THEY HAVE NO SUCH RIGHT. if one of these bites you and you become infected with a strange virus/disease as a result – is Bill Gates going to pay your medical bill? did YOU give him the right to test his frankenstein mosquities on YOU

    NO YOU DIDN't

    SO why aren't you out there right now letting of many mosquitoe-killer gas bombs as you can?

    THESE people if not brought into check could end up destroying all life on earth – it IS THAT SERIOUS. Not a joke. They have no idea how these mosquitoes may mutate in the future.

    the same goes with food – an unforseen mutation or a problem with the GM strain – maybe it cannot resist a new pest – and our world food supply could be destroyed.

  • Hanspy

    Now when do we learn that messing with nature, it wil result in nature messing with us.

  • Fred again

    "We know that the Wolbachia mosquitoes are equipped with a lethal gene designed to lower the mosquito population"

    This is incorrect. The Wolbachia mosquitoes have Wolbachia in them. They aren't GM

  • Fred

    …"Oxitec’s Wolbachia mosquitoes"….

    Oxitec have the GM mosquitoes, Wolbachia infected Aedes are from an Australian research group. You are clearly getting mixed up and you should really get the facts straight.

  • Anonymous

    The least you could do would be to get the name of the bacteria right – Wolbachia pipientis. Surely you can use google?

  • JA Denton

    The Canadian article, which this article was derived from, appears to confuse the GM approach from Oxitec with the Wolbachia approach being pushed by Eliminate Dengue. While there are questions, some of which were touched on in the Canadian article, to be asked of this bacteria based approach the questions asked here relate either only to the Oxitec Oxi513a mosquito or to all insect suppression techniques.

    The Wolbachia approach is not a suppression technique but a self sustaining infection of the local populations. It is important to separate the two approaches as the questions to be asked of each differ greatly and their grouping diminishes our ability to effective assess the risks of both.

    It is also worth noting that under Australian law (and that of most countries) these mosquitos are not GM (that is of course not to say that this changes the need to disseminate accurate information and provide an in depth risk assessment).

    • Anonymous

      Where in Australia are these …

      • JA Denton

        http://eliminatedengue.com/en/HOME.aspx talks a bit about both the sites and the process (though the website is a bit broken).

        The two initial locations were Gordon Vale and Yorkeys Knob near Cairns (near the top of the Australian east coast).

  • bikpet

    they will be doing this to people soon,if not allready/

    • Anonymous

      they have been for years, if not generations, time these murdering bastards were shot….