Sure, Let’s Release Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Into The Wild

Sure, Let’s Release Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Into The Wild

Malaysia recently released 6000 genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild. What reason could there possibly be to justify such a thing?

Malaysia’s intent is indeed honorable. They aren’t purposefully trying to create a super powered variant of one of the world’s most deadliest disease carriers. To the contrary, these 6000 bugs have been genetically altered to help stem the spread of dengue fever, a nasty little bug that causes fever, headaches, rashes, and sometimes death. These new mosquitoes have been altered so that their offspring will have an unnaturally short lifespan, which Malaysia hopes will thin the population of the aedes aegypti mosquitos responsible for the sickness.

Environmental groups and the like protested, of course, perhaps hoping that the Malaysian government would exercise a little common sense. It did not, and now we’ll just have to wait and see what sort of consequences the altered mosquito release could have.

One possible result is that the mosquito population will indeed thin and the release will be a massive success, but positive speculation is no fun.

More gloomy results could include the mosquitos mutating into a new, more powerful form of mosquito, the diseases they carry taking on new, deadlier properties, or the altered genes being passed along to the animals these bugs like to chew on, resulting in negative side effects for other local animals, or even humans.

No use crying over spilled mutant mosquito though. What’s done is done, and we’ll just have to live (hopefully) with the consequences. That’s what irresponsible science is all about!

Malaysia Releases 6,000 Genetically Modified Mosquitoes into the Wild [Popular Science]


  • I think I will take the word of scientists who have studied this area for many years while trying to improve the world and stop the suffering of countless people, over the arguement of “I don’t understand it, so it must be bad”

      • This is a wild stab but I’m going to assume that there was no group of guys in white lab coats working for half a decade on the “step 1: get toads, step 2: liberally apply to country” plan. This is a massively tested scientific field not a knee jerk reaction by a bunch of people who don’t know any better.

    • You have to be the simplest person I’ve come across; reduce the lifespan of an entire species so that a small number of another species doesn’t catch a disease from them? No ethical issues popping up for you?

      I’ve an even better proposal: Why not genetically-reduce human lifespans to 50 years (35 years for Africans/Australian Aboriginals) so we have an improved quality of life without having to deal with health problems of the aged?

      It worries me that such important decisions are being made by people as narrow-minded and selfish as you.

    • “You” will take their word? They consulted you before they started experimenting in the wild?

      No, they didn’t and that’s kind of the point. Corporations do as they please nowadays. None of us had a say in whether or not they could experiment in an uncontrolled environment that’s potentially harmful to the public.

      You and I don’t have any ownership of this process so it’s time to stop pretending that it was okay by us.

  • “”the mosquitoes mutating into a new, more powerful form of mosquito””

    What you are talking about is more correctly called evolution through natural selection. Since the released mosquitoes only have a shortened live, any beneficial traits in new generations would have to come about naturally.

    The comic book super-mutant is practically impossible to recreate. For example, around the area of Chernobyl, there are several new “breeds” of animal created from the larger than normal genetic mutation, but none of those mutations give a real advantage over non- or per-Chernobyl animals.

  • I hate all the references to mutation, do any of the critics have a expertise in bioengineering and genetics? The more serious question is the funding, application and success of such an “experiment”. The media and public’s response will cause more damage than these little buggers.

    • Maybe he’s aware of the Bill Gates connection and so he’s getting tangential on our asses? Oxitec, the british biotech firm behind the Malaysian GM release is linked with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation which is behind the Australian GM release.

      I’m thinking.. Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.

  • Possibly not the smartest idea.. Everything has its place in nature. This could have terrible consequences for other wildlife.
    But, of course, at least those destructive humans will be a bit more comfortable. Typical human greed.

    • Governments have been creating genetically modified plants for some time and there’s no record I know of of those plants causing issues elsewhere in the food chain.
      This mosquito could could lead to a reduction in the use of insecticide with the associated benefits for the local environment.

      Sticking with agriculture for a minute, modern farming techniques often rely on the use of monocultures which reduce diversity and can have a large impact on the local environment.
      The large fields that modern harvesting machines require for efficiency result in deforestation and the large expanses of open ground can be susceptible to wind erosion in dry times.

      I would encourage anyone who is uncertain about genetic engineering to read Whole Earth Discipline as the reasoned, researched arguments will most likely make you question why many people are so afraid of GE.

      The only negative consequence that I can think of is if the mossies are able to breed before they die. That way, there won’t be many menopausal or otherwise sterile mossies in the environment thus allowing the young, fertile ones decreased competition and more incentive to breed.

      • I understand what you’re saying and I have no problem with GM food, but this is quite different. For example in the efforts to make AI and nano-tech they have a rule that they aren’t allowed to create anything that can survive on its own in the environment, this could go very wrong despite the limit their lifetimes have.

  • Didn’t Australia do a similar thing in the last 12 months to help stem dengue fever? I read a lot about it a few months ago, and it seemed pretty sound and the risk tiny in comparison to the return.

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