From: The Huffington Post, June 20, 2010
Most of us probably don’t think about insects when we hear about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Yet many scientists believe that genetically modified (GM) insects hold great promise by providing a powerful tool to prevent unnecessary deaths. Approximately half the world’s population is at risk from insect-borne diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness and dengue fever. Millions of people are killed by insect-borne diseases and hundreds of millions more are incapacitated every year. At the same time, damage and disease transmission to crops and livestock by insects has a significant global socio-economic impact. Increasing resistance to pesticides, GM crops and climate chaos are making these insect-pests a growing problem. In laboratories around the world, scientists are using genetic engineering technologies to modify insects at DNA level to address important concerns including:
1. Socio-economic challenges such as increasing crop yield and production;
2. Public health challenges such as human and animal well being.
It is also possible that GM insects released to control the spread of disease could actually have the unintended consequence of enabling an insect to more effectively spread disease or even carry a human disease it was never before able to transmit.
There are concerns about how this GM technology fits in with other approaches to manage insect-borne diseases and the long term consequences of releasing GM insects into the wild. What are the benefits, risks and scientific uncertainties associated with such transgenic insects?