The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced today that they would be conducting a small scale field study with genetically-engineered (GE) Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes at three sites from October 2016. The three areas are Yishun Street 21, Tampines Avenue 4 and Jalan Riang/Jalan Sukachita near Serangoon Ave 3. All 3 areas previously had dengue outbreaks and represent a cross-section of typical housing estates in Singapore, NEA explained.
NEA said that only Male Aedes mosquitoes infected with a naturally-occurring bacteria, Wolbachia, which causes dud eggs when they mate will be released in the field study. NEA said that male mosquitoes were chosen as they do not bite, there is no risk of biting or disease transmission. NEA hopes that the project would lead to a fall in the Aedes aegypti population, which transmit the viruses that cause dengue fever.
The government agency further assured the public that its risk assessment showed that the genetically-modified mosquitoes are safe, with no risk to human health and insignificant risk to ecology. Grassroots Advisers and Leaders in the three areas have also given their support for the small-scale field study.
NEA asked for the cooperation and support from residents and local stakeholders at the selected sites will be crucial in ensuring the success of the small-scale field study.
In early August Indybay, a non-commercial, democratic collective media in the San Francisco bay area reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) release of GE mosquitoes in the Florida Keys area was met with widespread public outcry.
It said: “In Panama, Brazil and Malaysia, where the company has already released the GE mosquitoes, people could not avoid breathing in and swallowing mosquitoes due to the vast number of mosquitoes released.”
The article further quoted a senior policy analyst at Center for Food Safety as saying: “It is unacceptable that the FDA would approve the widespread release of potentially harmful genetically engineered insects without having the science to back up the decision. Public health could be put at risk, especially considering the likelihood of ingesting the GE mosquitos, and the likelihood of some mosquitoes not being effectively sterilized.”
It also quoted a senior food and technology campaigner with the Friends of the Earth, U.S as saying: “FDA’s assessment and testing was inadequate. How will GE mosquitoes thrive in the wild and what will the inevitable unintended consequences be? These questions have not been responsibly answered. We should be using the least toxic alternatives that don’t have unintended consequences for our environment and health.”