Zika

FDA Finally Approves 'Friendly' GMO Mosquitoes

Just as Zika virus breaks out in Florida - coincidence?

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OxitecLarva
Oxitec

After more than 5 years of dithering, the Food and Drug Administration has at long last gotten around to allowing the biotech company Oxitec to conduct an investigational trial in the Florida Keys of its genetically engineered version of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This hardy species of mosquito is a vector for transmitting diseases like dengue and Zika virus. The GMO male mosquitoes carry a gene that prevents larva from developing into adults. The company has been releasing their mosquitoes in trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands since 2009 where they reduced the populations of these disease carrying vermin by 90 percent. Anti-biotech activists managed to scare 150,000 people to sign a petition against allowing this trial. Had the agency been more expeditious, these mosquitoes might have been available now for helping stem the current outbreak of Zika virus in South Florida.

While the FDA dillydallied, the Environmental Protection Agency has just approved the release of mosquitos infected with the Wolbachia bacteria. The biotech company MosquitoMate infects male Aedes aegypti that then pass along this bacteria when they mate. The eggs of infected females don't hatch. Clovis, California is releasing 40,000 of these mosquitoes every week in an effort to fend off the Zika virus.

NEXT: Gary Johnson Gets Metaphysical

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  1. If there’s an existing technology which might solve the problem, FDA would be crazy to use it and miss out on the $1.9B that Obama wants to throw at them.

  2. If I get bitten by one of these laboratory freakshows, my eggs won’t hatch either?

    On the plus size, maybe they’ll get Mr Lizard.

    1. So you’re saying Mr Lizard is Fat?

  3. If this works, will the FDA approve the release of similarly modified male humans into Florida?

    1. It’d have to be the female. She’s the one laying all the larvae around.

  4. And not everybody’s happy with it.

    And in fact, some of them folks don’t even think Zika is really a thing.

    The data on which is based the declaration of international emergency for the Zika virus are striking. Not for the risks that spread of this virus would mean, but for the lack of evidence to motivate such a pompous statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the face of a mild illness, with very little evidence of connection with more serious ailments and without scientific proof. To make up for these lacks, it adds that as the disease’s vector?the mosquito Aedes aegypti?is also a vector of dengue and chikungunya, it is attacking all three.

    1. Whoa…whoa whoa! Now they’re attacking the Transgenic? They go too far!

      For example, the company Oxitec, which has done controversial experiments with transgenic mosquitoes

    2. So (potentially) eliminating whatever is causing microcephaly in newborns, plus eliminating better understood ravaging diseases? Where’s the downside?

      1. Precautionary Principle! Our eggheads haven’t found anything wrong with it, but we don’t like it!

        1. Here’s a thought: bioengineer a mosquito that poses no threat to humans but can proliferate normally. Let that fill the ecological niche that these bloodsucking disease vectors occupy now. Checkmate, atheists ethicists.

          1. Precautionary principle trumps every argument you can put forth, because it’s predicated on unknown unknowns. Until YOU can PROVE to us and by revealing ALL the unknown unknowns as ‘safe’, then it’s considered ‘unsafe’.

            1. Precautionary principle trumps every argument you can put forth, because it’s predicated on unknown unknowns.

              It’s a double-edged sword. I haven’t looked at the evidence in a while, so they may’ve dialed in the numbers a little better, but the chance of microcephaly as a result of ‘pregnant with Zika’ was like 5% above background and highly dependent on geography.

              Handing over blanket authority to wiping out all the mosquitos in N. America when simply not living in Brazil solves the problem seems exceedingly risk averse and hyper-caution motivated. And if you don’t think blanket authority will be handed over or taken, you clearly haven’t been paying enough attention.

              1. It also helps with yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. Yellow fever was a big deal in the US. So was malaria. Then we undertook massive mosquito control efforts and eliminated these diseases from circlulation.

                We are about to see a second round of mosquito bourne illness with Zika and chikungunya in particular spreading rapidly.

                We can attack now when the pool of infected individuals is low, or wait around until there are millions of carriers and the problem is intractible and requires years of concerted eradication efforts.

                1. We can attack now when the pool of infected individuals is low, or wait around until there are millions of carriers and the problem is intractible and requires years of concerted eradication efforts.

                  Which pool of individuals infected with what by which mosquito(es)? Who’s the ‘we’ doing the attacking. If the solution is so powerful, brilliant, and perfect why does it require ‘us’ to attack *now*? Assuming you’re right and you’ve done all the math; How many mosquitoes will it take and what all areas will we have to spread them over.

                  Brazil, Miami, and Clovis should do whatever the fuck they want to do. Farmers should use GMO crops to rid their fields of weeds (both dicamba and glyphosate-resistant so long as they keep them in their own fields), and TOP.MEN. have sold you on a magic bullet solution.

                  1. It’s a shame that nothing was done to combat malaria in the US.

                  2. Mosquito eradication works. We are living in the proof. Malaria was a serious problem in the southern US 100 years ago. There is no malaria in the US now. This is 100% due to mosquito control efforts.

                    If a small population begins circulating a virus – like the 1 square mile area in Miami now, eliminating all the vector mosquitos in the area will stop the disease cold at a minimal expense. Using broad spectum insecticides like DDT works well. But it kills everything, giving environmentalists the sad. So targeted solutions like the GMO mosquito and irradiated mosquito releases are generically better.

                    If you wait to attack in force until after the virus has spread and is endemic in a dozen states covering hundreds of thousands of square miles, your cost of eradicating the disease just went up by more than 5 orders of magnitude. That is the “now” component.

                2. Which requires more government and taxation?

          2. Pretty sure the niche is blood-sucking, disease vector so…

      2. We’re destroying our natural environment of microbes!

      3. Where’s the downside?

        I haven’t seen the evidence but I can understand that the One World Health Organization simply yelling, ‘boogeyman’ and funding research to vaccinate and/or generally fuck around with nature is pretty damned scary.

        1. Especially considering how both the Bird and Swine Flu Pandemics have nearly eradicated the human species from the planet.

          1. It’s long past time we made nature our bitch.

            1. Too bad that is sounds like the younger generation is becoming to risk averse to dominating bitches.

      4. So (potentially) eliminating whatever is causing microcephaly in newborns, plus eliminating better understood ravaging diseases? Where’s the downside?

        I don’t see the downside, other than possible environmental effects from eliminating this species of mosquito from the ecosystem.

        On the “don’t think Zika is a real thing” front, there really are questions about the big, headline grabbing microcephaly effect. It seems that Brazil had a rate of microcephally that was 1/3 less than the US and european rates. The explosion of cases with the Zika outbreak brought a 50% increase of cases to Brazil…. bringing them up to the same level as the US and Europe. Why this discrepency should have existed and why Zika should pretty well exactly wipe it out is an interesting question.

        One theory is that it was just underreported in Brazil and Zika raised awareness. There have been some studies since these concerns were raised that seemed to show a definite link between Zika and microcephaly, but there are even more recent studies that question that result, finding strange concentrations of severe effects of the disease in “hot spots” isolated to one region of the country.

        So questions remain to be answered, meaning the anti-GMO pants wetters are not totally in tinfoil hat territory on the zika question (although their anti-mosquito stance is still nutty). They are just mostly in tinfoil hat territory. Zika is a thing, they just aren’t sure how bad it is

  5. Wasn’t this a subplot in the X-Files movie, only with bees?

  6. Party of science.
    Global warming.
    Libertarian moment.
    Trump.

    What did I miss?

    1. I’m a Leftist and fully support the idea of studying whether it is safe to eradicate mosquitos.

      1. Do you wait and study while people die? Not as much an issue here, but mosquito bourne illnesses account for several million deaths each year, and hundreds of millions of cases worldwide.

        If you could eliminate all Anopheles mosquitos in Africa tomorrow, wiping out human malaria infection, would you wait to study the effects, even at the cost of millions of lives and hundreds of millions of dibilating infections?

        Let’s say it would take 10 years to properly study the Anopheles mosquitoes and their role in the environment (an optimistic estimate), would you condemn 20 million people to death while we wait? What if there was a way to round them all up, so you could look them in the eye…. explain to their mom why their 8 year old little girl had to die so you could be sure… 20 million times over.

        That’s really what we are talking about here. This is not about sticking it to Monsanto. Millions of people will die for every delay we have in solving these problems. Suddenly the precautionary principle doesn’t sound so safe.

        1. I applaud you for attempting to alter all of amsocs misguided “thoughts” through reasoned arguments, however, there is a much more simple and obvious answer that actually spurs action from such types. First, amsoc needs a child, grandchild, parent, significant other to become ill with zika. Second, the effects of the disease need to be significant. Third, we wait, but not too long.

          The predictable cries will not be in short supply. “If we can save only one child, one liberal, one person that is unable to care for themselves any government funds are worth it. The ends are greater than the means.”

          Or, amsoc hates Cuban exiles and wishes this to be their penance.

      2. So you fully support employing large numbers of government employees spending years studying whether removing or significantly degrading a disease vector is safe so that they can issue a ‘final’ report which can be quickly taken down by your political pals to satisfy hysterical econuts.

        How enlightened of you.

      3. I’m a capitalist and fully support the idea of studying whether it is safe to eradicating Leftists.

        1. I’d want to make sure they aren’t an important part of the food chain first, but otherwise I don’t see why not.

  7. this is probably how the “disease” got going in the first place…

  8. Interesting how it was EPA’s say-so that mattered in 1 case, FDA’s in the other. I think that’s because the bacteria applied by MosquitoMate are considered a “pesticide” because they mitigate a pest, while DNA applied by Oxitec is considered a “new animal drug”.

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