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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 14 New Delhi March 24, 2018

Stop the Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Friday 23 March 2018, by Bharat Dogra

COMMUNICATION

According to recent media reports, small-scale trials of release of genetically modified mosquitoes were conducted in Maharashtra and it is likely that preparations are now being made for bigger field trials. In this context it is important to point out that there has been worldwide concern about the serious hazards of this technology. Although it is pushed in the name of disease control by powerful interests it may actually lead to a worsening of diseases, as pointed out in recent years by public interest campaigns in several countries.

In India these efforts were first seen in the form of the Genetic Control of Mosquitoes Unit Project during the 1970s and this project was strongly criticised in the media for its various hazards and even biological warfare implications. The Public Accounts Committee of the the Indian Parliament also supported this criticism in its 167th Report. The hazardous implications of the project were exposed by C. Raghavan in Mainstream (May 17, 1975) and by the brilliant PTI reporter, Dr K.S. Jayaraman. While a lot of damage was done by this project, the large-scale release of dangerous mosquitoes in the crowded city of Sonipat could be stopped at the last minute.

Since then several aspects of genetically modified mosquitoes, including their release by a firm Oxitec, have been the subject of much controversy and criticism in various parts of world, one reason being that some of the releases have taken place in conditions of secrecy. A Reuters report—dated January 30, 2016 and titled ‘GMO mosquito could be cause of Zika outbreak, critics say’—attracted a lot of attention, as did papers by Dr Helen Wallace regarding many potential hazards of this technology.

In a recent comprehensive review of this technology, titled ‘Mosquito in the Ointment’ (see Frontline, February 16, 2018), a senior Indian scientist, Dr P.K. Rajagopalan, former Director of the Vector Control Research Centre, has exposed many-sided problems and hazards of this technology. He has concluded after examining a lot of evidence from various parts of world, including India: “It is obvious that the release of genetically manipulated vector mosquitoes not only is ineffective but also poses a great danger to society.â€

 Hence any further trial of this dangerous technology should be stopped immediately.

Bharat Dogra

C-27 Raksha Kunj,

Paschim Vihar,

New Delhi-110063

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