Advocate makes case against GM mosquitoes



Speaking briefly before the Florida Keys Mosquito Control at its monthly meeting last week, Jeffrey Smith, identified as “the leading consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices,” argued against the use of genetically-modified (GM) mosquitoes in the continuing battle to end dengue fever, particularly those created by “Oxitech, the UK based company that wants to introduce the mosquitoes into the Keys,” Smith told Konk Life in a follow-up email and subsequent telephone interview.

“Genetically engineered mosquitoes expose the Keys to numerous potential catastrophes: for human health, the environment and the economy,” the Iowa resident and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, wrote. Oxitech “has done only limited studies and their releases in other countries had insufficient safeguards and monitoring. For example, they exposed thousands of people to millions of their mosquitoes without ever having conducted a thorough biochemical analysis of the mosquito saliva to determine whether it harbors dangerous new allergens or toxins.”

In addition to the insect saliva, Smith warns of possible consumption of female mosquitoes and their larvae by pets or even young humans from the pets’ water bowls and “unknown changes in the ecology that in certain circumstances . . . could worsen dengue. The number of cases might be reduced, but the intensity could increase or it could allow other mosquitoes” to become carriers.

More dangerous, however, is the bite GM mosquitoes could take out of the Keys’ tourist industry. “Tourism is the engine that runs the Keys and that industry is at risk from the perceived or actual threat” of the GM critters, Smith said. “There is a very clear, unmistakable risk that the fear of GM mosquitoes and even claims that they have a risk can be detrimental to tourism. Someone’s going to get sick in the Keys and if they think they, or their child, got sick from a mosquito bite,” the resulting media attention could be devastating.

“Once the mosquitoes are released, someone might blame a mosquito bite for a reaction or disease contracted at the same time. Whether or not the bite is related, even a rumor or speculation of such an association could be reported in tabloids or other news sources and result in a national or international scare. Tourists could hesitate to visit the Keys or even South Florida while the investigation is going on,” he warned.

“Genetic engineering is getting more controversial every year. Millions of people distrust the technology, and for good reason. Many of the noble promises made to the American public about the safety and benefits of genetically engineered foods, for example, have been repeatedly exposed as blatant deceptions. . . . Monsanto remains the most hated corporation on earth, according to yearly surveys. And the FDA is similarly resented for allowing GMOs onto the market without any required safety testing.”

Smith is especially skeptical about Oxitech’s credentials and potential results. The release is not, in fact, limited to sterile males; Oxitech admits that “between one in 1,500 to 1 in 3,000 are actually GM females” – the ones that bite – and he believes the number to be much higher. “The technology is designed to give rise to sterile males that mate with wild females produce offspring that die late in the larval stage.” However, “three to four percent survive, according to Oxitech. The males can mate with many females and the females can create up to 100 eggs each,” increasing the risk.

In addition, “in the presence of tetracycline, an antibiotic, survival rates climb to 15 percent, an independent lab in France found. We could end up with millions.”

Smith’s credentials are substantial. He has produced an award-winning, “feature-length documentary Genetic Roulette — The Gamble of Our Lives,” according to his biography, which also credits authorship of Seeds of Deception,“which is the world’s bestseller on GMOs; and Genetic Roulette, which is the authoritative work on GMO health dangers.”

Smith was incredulous that Mosquito Control limited his remarks to 15 minutes. “Governments fly me in to talk about this. I’ve been following it for 18 years,” he said.

“The bar must be very, very high before releasing a new organism that can permanently alter the gene pool locally, nationally, or globally,” Smith wrote. “Based on their track record, Oxitech cannot be trusted to protect our interests.”


Editor’s note: A previous article detailed Mosquito Control’s belief that GM mo9squitoes were safe “a “win-win” solution to the dengue threat.

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