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Brazil Set to Unleash Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Oxitec continues "dangerously misguided" plan to combat dengue fever

- Common Dreams staff

Brazil is readying a plan to unleash large numbers of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in an effort to combat dengue fever, a plan that environmentalists have previously called "dangerously misguided."

Aedes aegypti mosquito. Dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses according to the World Health Organization. In a factory inaugurated Saturday, Moscamed will continue its two-year long project which already saw gm mosquitoes released in Bahia state last year.

The plan uses Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which renders the modified insects sterile, thereby theoretically reducing the number of mosquitoes in the wild when they're released.

The GM mosquito plan may have met with little resistance, as Oxitec says in a statement that Brazil has "a long history of open releases of genetically modified plants in agriculture."

Brazil is not the only place to receive Oxitec's transgenic bugs. Bloomberg reports that they've also been released in Malaysia, the Cayman Islands and Brazil.

When the Florida Keys announced a possible plan to release Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes in order to control the population of Aedes aegypti in March, it was met with resistance from community members.  Environmentalists called the the plan "dangerously misguided" and said that the company has hidden the fact that the genetically modified mosquitoes could have high survival rate in wild and is not, as Oxitec claims, environmentally friendly.

“We cannot stress strongly enough how dangerously misguided this application is. Oxitec hopes to use the neighborhoods and precious ecosystem of the Keys as their private, for-profit laboratory. The shame of it is, the company has no evidence the [genetically modified] mosquitoes will even work in their stated aim of controlling Dengue fever," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch of the Florida Keys plan.

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