Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fear over impact on ecological system

The new Selangor government is a responsible government. Syabas!
New Straits Times
Selangor govt against use of GM mosquitos

KUALA LUMPUR: The Selangor government yesterday "strongly objected" to the release of genetically-modified (GM) Aedes mosquitos to fight dengue.

State executive councillor for health, estate workers, poverty and caring government Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar said the release of such mosquitos was a reckless and uncontrolled experiment with risky technology.

He said past research on other GM insects had failed even in the field trial stage.

He also said that all previous tests by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) had only been carried out in strictly controlled environments.

"Therefore, there is no way of evaluating the ecological damage and environmental impact of releasing the GM mosquitos.

"Science has shown that the ecological damage caused by releasing genetically modified organisms is very often irreversible," he said in a statement.

The New Sunday Times had reported that the IMR and a company partly owned by the University of Oxford would release "warrior" mosquitos in Pulau Ketam off Selangor to combat the dengue scourge.

Environmentalists had expressed fears that the release of GM Aedes mosquitos could cause more harm than good.

Xavier was concerned over the potential harm and long term consequences that the people would have to put up with, and pay for, if the experiment went awry.

New Straits Times

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are not against new technologies to fight the dengue scourge but are against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which may cause more harm than good.

Acknowledging the need to progress with science, Cetdem's Gurmit Singh feared that the introduction of the GM mosquitoes into the wild to eliminate the aedes population could instead have serious consequences on the country's ecological system.

"And like all GMOs, once they are released into the wild, how do you prevent them from interacting or crossbreeding with other insects and producing mutants which may be worse than the aedes mosquito?" he asked.

"Although the technology sounds positive in getting rid of the dengue menace, we cannot take risks on a big scale because we really do not know the side effect these mosquitoes will have on other organisms and the eco-system.

"Unless they have done enough studies to ascertain the safety of the GM mosquito and until these questions are answered, I would be uncomfortable with the use of GMOs."

Fish and other insects such as the dragonfly feed on mosquito larvae.Gurmit also questioned why Pulau Ketam was chosen for the field tests.

"Is it because it is prone to dengue or is it because it is an island and therefore easier to control in the event something goes wrong?"

He said there should also be effective monitoring of the project if it is implemented and suggested that it be done by a broad group of independent researchers from around the world.

Malaysian Nature Society president Datuk Dr Salleh Mohd Nor said it would be dangerous "to release these GMOs into the wild with the hope that it would do the things it should do".

He said although scientists should not be stopped from carrying out trials and pioneering new technologies for the benefit of mankind, they should approach it with caution. "I'm concerned that releasing it into the wild without thoroughly understanding its implications may affect the ecology and cause other diseases to be transmitted."

Salleh also questioned whether the country was legally protected in the event something goes wrong with these field trials.

"These issues have not been raised. We need adequate laws to ensure there is a mechanism in place to protect the country under such circumstances."

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