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Greens and GMO

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GMO Fungus Mass Kills Malaria Mosquitoes

Genetically modified organisms offer so much potential to save lives, improve the environment, and generally promote a more prosperous and healthier future. For example, “golden rice”–genetically modified to contain vitamin A — promises to be a great preventative of blindness and death for destitute children in the developing world.

In the latest example, scientists have genetically modified a fungus that infects malaria mosquitoes to contain lethal spider venom. In a controlled test, the population of these dangerous insects collapsed once the GMO fungus was introduced into the population.

A 6,500-sq-ft fake village – complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes – was set up in Burkina Faso. It was surrounded by a double layer of mosquito netting to prevent anything escaping. A so-called “mosquitosphere” tests the fungus in real-world conditions, without releasing it into the wild

The fungal spores were mixed with sesame oil and wiped on to black cotton sheets. The mosquitoes had to land on the sheets to be exposed to the deadly fungus. The researchers started the experiments with 1,500 mosquitoes.

The results, published in the journal Science, showed numbers soared when the insects were left alone. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days.

That success presents us with an astounding opportunity to save lives without using pesticide, which is more environmentally friendly. Making the development of the GMO fungus a more urgent priority, malaria mosquitoes are developing resistance against existing poisons and infection rates are increasing.5

It seems to me the only real question remaining are the potential unintended consequences on other fauna. Thank goodness, it appears safe.

Tests also showed the fungus was specific to these mosquitoes and did not affect other insects such as bees.

If this technology continues to prove effective and safe, it could save millions of lives. But don’t expect implacable anti-GMO activists to care about that one whit. These neo-earth religionists seek to thwart the development and deployment of any and all GMOs, no matter how beneficent and benign. For example, even though golden rice has proved completely safe — and has been put under the ownership of a non-profit to avoid any “taint” of corporatism–these fanatics continue to resist its use. That’s flat-out anti-human.

Let’s hope GMO fungus research reaches a successful conclusion — and that the anti-humanists who would rather children die of malaria than allow a fungus to be modified genetically — are unable to thwart this important humanitarian work.

9 COMMENTS

  1. What are we meant to do with the millions of lives saved. I understand the argument and the principle, but how is that good for the planet? Unless there was a matching reduction in births, then it can’t be.

    For western countries that have no immunity to malaria, if the mosquitoes spread, perhaps, but then they would be accused of white supremacy.

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    • That’s a fairly poor thing to say. Every family deserves to be have kids. Poor people seem to have more on average because they need them to take care of the elderly later in life. Most of these countries have no welfare net.

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      • I think it is important in this world of increasingly scarce resources that people have children only if they have the means to support them. Think of the plague of starvation affecting Africa and how many children are literally dying of hunger. Why would you recommend people have children only to watch them starve to death?

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  2. When it comes to GMO the Greens hypocrisy (or cognitive dissonance) is astounding. The first to trumpet “the science is settled” except when the science contradicts their ideology.

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    • The Greens would have to forego their interpretation of the “Precautionary Principle”. Which requires, according to them, a total elimination of any and all risks before they’re prepared to accept a GMO.

      It’s an inconsistent standard. If they were consistent, we’d never see them again because they couldn’t get out of bed; they wouldn’t be able to eliminate all risk of any danger. They might stub a toe or smack their shin into a coffee table etc. In fact, even being bed is not a safeguard against risk: heart attacks, a meteorite might hit them etc. But then if they didn’t have double standards, they wouldn’t have any standards.

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  3. It does not necessarily mean anything is added. It could just altering the existing gene sequence.

    The Greens want us to reduce methane emissions. Ruakura Research has developed a modified form of rye grass which grows faster and animals produce about 25% less emissions. They have done this using GMO technology. But despite the demands to reduce emissions the guys have to do larger trials in the USA because of the ranting Greens in NZ. Where do you think the IP of this development will end up if the trials are successful ?
    Probably a one off sale to a multinational who will go on to make billions from NZ Govt. paid research.

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  4. I’ll be honest that GMO shit scares me, but admittedly I know f*ck all about it. It might be ok for the 3rd world for lack of any better solution, but do we really need it in NZ? The food here is great just as it is.

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  5. There is a lot of pro-GE talk these days, focusing on whether or not the science is settled. I take a different attitude. From discussions with friends and colleagues in the USA I have no doubt that there is massive consumer fear of GE food, and that the huge US organic market is actually largely a GE-free market, as organic certification is the only GE-free food certification available.

    We need to be very careful what we wish for. A few years back there was a massive drop in NZ dairy value, NZ farmgate prices dropped below $4/kg/MS for a while. At the same time I was working with an organic certified organic dairy client who was being paid $12/kg/MS. I say yes the science is important, but the consumer is always right and get the marketing right first. If the consumer wants to pay more for GE free food, don’t try to convince them they are anti-science idiots, make them pay for it! Until such time as a premium price appears that is specific to GE food we need to stay GE free for brand NZ marketing purposes. I agree with the Greens on this one; once we go down the GE price there is not turning back. At the moment GE food is the bottom rung on the value chain ladder. We are a long way from our markets and to deliberately position ourselves at the bottom of the commodity market seems an act of extreme economic stupidity bordering on national suicide.

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