CONTACT: Eric Hoffman ~ Biotechnology policy campaigner ~ 202-222-0747 ~email@example.com
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One threat is that a signicant decline in the
mosquito population couldhave unintended consequences on the local ecosystem and food chain. Mosquitoes are animportant source of food for many sh, birds and other insects that would need to ndanother food source if
were to disappear. The impacts a decline in
population would have on the food chains in Florida have yet to be studied. A decline in
could also leave an ecological niche to be lled by other,possibly more harmful pests. For example the Asian Tiger mosquito,
,is considered one of the most invasive species in the world and carries many diseasesincluding dengue fever and the West Nile virus.
While the Asian Tiger mosquito hasnot yet been found in the Florida Keys,
it could spread to the island if other mosquitopopulations decline as it has spread across many parts of the U.S. This could meanthe spread of more disease and increased use of pesticides. The impacts from other,potentially more dangerous insects taking over the ecological niche left by
have yet to be studied.
The release of GE mosquitoes as an attempt to curb the spread of disease should beconsidered a medical trial and must follow the strict laws and guidelines in place toprotect human subjects in medical trials. Central to ethics on human subject trials is theidea of free and informed consent. According to paragraph 24 of the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki
Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, the cornerstone of human research ethics:
In medical research involving competent human subjects, each potentialsubject must be
adequately informed of the aims, methods, sources of funding, any possible conicts of interest, institutional afliationsof the researcher, the anticipated benets and potential risks of thestudy and the discomfort it may entail, and any other relevant aspectsof the study.
The potential subject must be informed of the
right to refuseto participate in the study or to withdraw consent to participate atany time without reprisal.
Special attention should be given to the specicinformation needs of individual potential subjects as well as to the methodsused to deliver the information. After ensuring that the potential subject hasunderstood the information, the physician or another appropriately qualiedindividual must then seek the potential subject’s
freely-given informedconsent, preferably in writing.
If the consent cannot be expressed inwriting, the non-written consent must be formally documented and witnessed
Unfortunately, Oxitec has already shown a disregard of the importance of free andinformed consent. The rst releases of GE mosquitoes took place in the Cayman Islands — rst a small-scale trial in 2009 followed by the release of three million GE mosquitoesin 2010. According to Genewatch UK, the Cayman experiments were not revealed tothe public until one month after the initial release and “no public consultation wasundertaken on potential risks and informed consent was not sought from local people.”
Equally troubling is that the Cayman Islands — a territory of the United Kingdom — does not have any biosafety laws and is not covered by either the Cartagena Protocolon Biosafety or the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participationin Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, despite the UK being a Party to these treaties.
These conventions would have
required publicationof and consultation on an environmental risk assessment prior to
the release of GEmosquitoes. Instead, the only regulatory requirements were a local permit from the