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In The News
   
 
 

 

In The News
 

 

November 11 - Are Genetically Modified Insects The Next Step For The GMO Industry?

Article: Cloning And Genetic Engineering

Whether you like them or not, genetically modified ingredients are hard to avoid in the food supply--they're found in most processed foods in the U.S. and elsewhere. These crops--generally things like cotton, soy, and corn--are tweaked in labs so that theyíre immune to pest-killing products made by companies like Monsanto. The pesticides used on the crops can be harmful to humans, and scientists have questioned the safety of modifying crops in the first place. A British company called Oxitec has a plan to ditch pesticides and GMO crops, instead using genetic modification to eliminate the bugs that feed on certain crops like broccoli, cabbage, and fruit. What could possibly go wrong?

In a recent story, the Daily Mail proclaims that "millions of GM insects developed by British scientists could be released into food crop fields without proper safety checks." Itís not that the company is being allowed to release its insects onto crops without any oversight at all, but the company has reportedly lobbied to ensure GM insect-friendly officials end up on European Food Safety Authority committees.

Hereís how the technology works on a basic level (more detailed science available here): The company puts deadly genes inside male insects of the target insect pest species, like the Diamondback moth. When the males mate with females of the species, their offspring inherit the gene and die before they become adults. And voila, no more pests that munch on crops.

Oxitec has already tested its technology in Brazil, Malaysia, and the Cayman Islands, where it conducted research on the use of GMO mosquitoes in controlling dengue fever (the same technology can be used for other mosquito-borne diseases like malaria). And the company has emphasized that itís not trying to skirt the rules.

Itís hard to say what the consequences of releasing GMO-insects widely could be, but potential problems include accidental release and negative effects on the surrounding ecosystem. Dr. Helen Wallace, director of the GeneWatch U.K. campaign group, warned in an article that "using GM pests to reduce another type of pest can lead to a surge in other types of pest. The impacts of GM insects on human and animal diseases are poorly understood and have not been properly considered. For example, GM flies could spread diseases from faeces onto fruit."

 
 

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