The CDC worked alongside five federal departments and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the 16-page framework. With goals of better understanding these diseases, developing tools and guidance for protection, developing effective drugs and treatments and providing more information to the public. (See link for article)
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) has given Oxitec, a corporation we have reported on in the past, permission to unleash some 750 million GMO mosquitos in Monroe County, Florida, over the next two years.
This “trial,” as they are calling it, will commence at some point in 2021, despite objections from more than 2,000 Florida residents who wrote in to oppose the proposition prior to its approval.
Many locals had petitioned for a referendum to decide whether or not to proceed with what Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, described as a “Jurassic Park experiment.”
Back in 2016, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed GMO mosquito trial over Key Haven. This time, voters are not being given a voice at all, and neither Oxitec nor the FKMCD has indicated where this latest batch of GMO mosquitoes will even be released.
“With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida – the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change – the administration has used tax dollars and government resources” to release GMO mosquitoes over Florida, Hanson warned in a statement.
EPA did not even look at potential risks, nor did it calculate environmental impact
Financially backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxitec has been experimenting with GMO mosquitoes for years, which it claims may help to eradicate mosquito populations in places like Africa where they are said to be spreading malaria.
Oxitec has attempted to conduct trials outside of America, where restrictions are generally looser. But now it has permission to release GMO mosquitoes right here in America, a first with completely unknown implications.
“What could possibly go wrong? We don’t know because EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed,” Hanson adds.
Barry Wray, Executive Direct of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, is similarly perturbed and demanding a remedy. He warned at a recent meeting that the FKMCD has “an obligation to our community, not a vendor that’s products are risky and untrustworthy.”
Many members of the local community have urged the FKMCD to reject Oxitec’s field trial application, noting a dearth of relevant data that in any way suggests the trial will be safe or effective. But thus far they have made minimal headway.
“The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic,” says Dana Perls, food and technology Program Manager at Friends of the Earth.
“This approval is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”
Ed Russo, President of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, agrees, noting that the FKMCD does not have the resources to properly manage this process.
“Why have they not acquired the appropriate amount of insurance as well as performance and maintenance bonds?” he asked at the meeting.
“Their evasive answers and lack of management skills are an indictment of their unprofessionalism and arrogance which speaks loudly of an unprepared regulatory process.”
One of the biggest threats is that the GMO mosquitoes will breed and create hybrid wild mosquitoes that end up worsening the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. These GMO mosquitoes may also end up becoming more resistant to insecticides than wild mosquitoes.
There is further evidence to suggest that biting females will be released, despite objections from Oxitec that this will not happen. These biting females would put humans at risk of attack and infection, without their informed consent.
For more related news about untested GMOs being released into the wild, be sure to check out GMO.news.
The timing of this could not be more questionable. If this happens, lines will be blurred on yet another confounding factor in relation to COVID-19. ‘Authorities’ will only be too happy to blame any and all negative outcomes on COVID and NOT on released GMO mosquitoes – which again is another experiment with an unknown outcome.
Geneticist and virologist Jonathan Latham, Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and editor of Independent Science News, has spoken out about the fallacy of industry talking points in the past.
“It means for all the new inventions … you would need to go through the lengthy approval process of the European Union,” Kai Purnhagen, an expert at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, told Nature.
Emma Haapaniemi, a co-author of the Karolinska Institute study, explained why this is such a concerning find.
“By picking cells that have successfully repaired the damaged gene we intended to fix, we might inadvertently also pick cells without functional p53.” Dysfunctional p53 is a major cancer risk; nearly half of ovarian and colorectal cancers can be connected to a disruption in p53. Many other types of cancer, like lung, pancreatic, stomach, liver and breast cancers, can also be attributed to p53 problems.
“If transplanted into a patient, as in gene therapy for inherited diseases, such cells could give rise to cancer, raising concerns for the safety of CRISPR-based gene therapies,” Haapaniemi added.
“It is essential that national regulatory authorities and international organizations get on top of this — really get on top of it,” says Kenneth Oye, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the Science commentary. “We need more action.” The US National Research Council has formed a panel to discuss gene drives, and other high-level discussions are starting to take place, but Oye is concerned that regulatory changes may happen only after a high-profile gene-drive release, in other words, after it’s too late. (For a five minute audio of reporter Kerri Smith investigating the meteoric rise of CRISPR click on the link above.
On top of those difficulties, scientists do not know how all of this will affect ecosystems and are unclear if the gene drives could spread to closely related species.
Noam Prywes, PhD candidate in chemistry at Harvard, claims that CRISPR/Cas-9-based gene drives will
“add a twist – introducing one gene drive after another to correct unforeseen consequences as they are discovered,” and that “decisions by researchers would become permanently written into the genomes of entire wild populations.” He also adds that there are alternative ways to wipe out local populations of mosquitoes carrying disease that are much safer.
In this same vein, David Burwitz of Tel Aviv University, feels that gene drive research should be classified to prevent weapon development, and he’s not alone. http://nextstageprep.com/gene-drivesthis-next-weapon-mass-destruction/ In theory, a terrorist could create a handful of insects with a gene for making a toxin, and power it with a gene drive. Pretty soon, all of these insects would make the toxin, and every insect bite would be lethal. However, according to Austin Burt, who proposed the theoretical method for making gene drives, the gene drives only work in sexually reproducing species, unlike the vast majority of genetically engineered microbes which produce asexually and they’ve only been shown to work for one generation – so far.
In 2018, over 3,000 people in the state contracted Lyme disease from blacklegged ticks found on deer. Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of entomology, said that number just represents known and suspected cases, and is only the tip of the iceberg.
But this summer, the attention of health departments across Wisconsin is focused squarely on the coronavirus pandemic — taking scarce public health dollars and time away from other, more routine health threats. That includes tick and mosquito surveillance.
“Folks are more hesitant potentially to go in and see their providers to get checked out if they have headaches or fever. Things like muscle, joint aches and fatigue. They may be more willing to dismiss those symptoms instead of going and getting checked out and get tested,” said Ryan Wozniak, who supervises vector-borne diseases within Bureau of Communicable Diseases at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Wisconsin continues to track how many people get sick from tick and mosquito infections. But if people ignore symptoms, reported cases could be lower than they actually are during a time more people are going outdoors in hopes of bolstering both mental and physical health.
A new active ingredient, discovered and developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in insecticides and insect repellents.
Studies show that when products are formulated from the new ingredient, nootkatone, they may repel and kill ticks, mosquitoes, and a wide variety of other biting pests. Nootkatone is responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of grapefruit and is widely used in the fragrance industry to make perfumes and colognes. It is found in minute quantities in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin.
Nootkatone can now be used to develop new insect repellents and insecticides for protecting people and pets. CDC’s licensed partner, Evolva, is in advanced discussions with leading pest control companies for possible commercial partnerships. Companies interested in developing brand name consumer products will be required to submit a registration package to EPA for review, and products could be commercially available as early as 2022.
“CDC is proud to have led the research and development of nootkatone,” said Jay C. Butler, MD, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases. “Providing new alternatives to existing bite-prevention methods paves the way to solving one of biggest challenges in preventing vector-borne diseases—preventing bites.”
Studies show that when nootkatone is formulated into insect repellents, they may protect from bites at similar rates as products with other active ingredients already available and can provide up to several hours of protection.
Having a new effective ingredient for insecticide available will assist in addressing the growing levels of insecticide-resistance to other products currently in use, according to EPA.
“EPA is pleased to be continuing our partnership with CDC on registering nootkatone, which provides another tool to help protect the American public from biting insects and ticks,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This new active ingredient has the potential to be used in future insect repellents and pesticides that will protect people from disease. In many areas of the United States, mosquitoes have become resistant to currently available pesticides. A new active ingredient in our toolbox will help vector-control programs.”
Mosquito- and tickborne diseases are a growing threat in every U.S. state and territory. The number of reported cases of mosquito- and tickborne diseases doubled from 2004 to 2018. Tickborne diseases represent almost 8 in 10 of all reported vector-borne disease cases in the U.S. Increasing risk from these diseases means increasing demands on federal, state, and local health departments and vector control agencies.
CDC has partnered with Evolva since 2014. In 2017, Evolva was awarded a Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) contract with the key objective of advancing the development of nootkatone and nootkatone-based products for protection against mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue and Zika. This work has been supported with federal funds from CDC and managed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), BARDA, under Contract No. HHSO100201700015C.
Vector-borne diseases are emerging at an increasing rate and comprise a disproportionate share of all emerging infectious diseases. Yet, the key ecological and evolutionary dimensions of vector-borne disease that facilitate their emergence have not been thoroughly explored. This study reviews and synthesizes the existing literature to explore global patterns of emerging vector-borne zoonotic diseases (VBZDs) under changing global conditions. We find that the vast majority of emerging VBZDs are transmitted by ticks (Ixodidae) and mosquitoes (Culicidae) and the pathogens transmitted are dominated by Rickettsiaceae bacteria and RNA viruses (Flaviviridae, Bunyaviridae, and Togaviridae). The most common potential driver of these emerging zoonoses is land use change, but for many diseases, the driver is unknown, revealing a critical research gap. While most reported VBZDs are emerging in the northern latitudes, after correcting for sampling bias, Africa is clearly a region with the greatest share of emerging VBZD. We highlight critical gaps in our understanding of VBZD emergence and emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary research and consideration of deeper evolutionary processes to improve our capacity for anticipating where and how such diseases have and will continue to emerge.
Birds play a central role in the ecology of tick-borne pathogens. They expand tick populations and pathogens across vast distances and serve as reservoirs that maintain and amplify transmission locally.