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2014 articles

GM maggots in your fruit?

on .

Planned experiments with GM fruit flies in Brazil could lead to GM maggots in fruit being illegally imported to Europe - and releases of GM mosquitoes to combat malaria could potentially alter evolution across continents.

1. GM mosquitoes wouldn’t fly here, so don’t unleash them on Africa
2. Genetically modified maggots expected in fruit imports after go-ahead for Brazil GM fruit fly experiments
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1. GM mosquitoes wouldn’t fly here, so don’t unleash them on Africa
Charles Clover
Sunday Times, 15 June 2014
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/columns/charlesclover/article1422580.ece
[article behind paywall, GMWatch summary/paraphrasis below]

The idea that a GM mosquito could prevent more than 600,000 deaths a year from malaria by disrupting the breeding cycle is attractive, but it is not quite what it seems. The claimed benefits have to be weighed against the efficacy of other methods and the as yet unknown social and environmental costs, usually glossed over by the companies in this field.

Introducing GM insects that potentially alter evolution across continents is to initiate a huge biological and social experiment for which public consent is required on an international scale. It is not a simple equation of costs and benefits: putting up with the loss of a few insect or bird predators to prevent 200m cases of malaria a year. Such a step would have to work better than treated mosquito nets, insecticides and vaccines for dengue and malaria. And the World Health Organisation’s view is that malaria is treatable and preventable with existing methods.

One successful new technique for reducing dengue, funded by the Gates Foundation, falls outside the GM category. It involves introducing wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium that renders mosquitoes less likely to transmit dengue. They breed and pass the bacteria on. This method sailed past government regulators in Australia and has the support of local communities in Queensland.

GM mosquitoes would face an uphill battle to get them through any First World regulator, even if malaria was a threat there. This poses the question of why we lavish so much public subsidy on developing GM insects.
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2. Genetically modified maggots expected in fruit imports after go-ahead for Brazil GM fruit fly experiments
GeneWatch UK, 4 June 2014
http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=574133&als[itemid]=574583

GeneWatch UK today warned that planned experiments with genetically modified (GM) fruit flies in Brazil could lead to GM maggots in fruit being illegally imported to Britain and other European countries.

Experiments involving open releases of millions of genetically modified (GM) Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata) into fruit orchards in Brazil were approved by Brazil's GM regulator CTNBio in April. The date for the planned experiments has not yet been announced.

When released, the GM fruit flies are expected to mate with wild flies and produce female offspring which fail to reach adulthood, with many dying as maggots in the fruit. This is intended to reduce the wild population of Mediterranean fruit flies, which are a pest which feeds on many types of fruit. To reduce the wild population it must be outnumbered by a factor of at least ten to one, requiring many millions of GM fruit flies to be released.

Brazil exports fruit including melons, mangoes, grapes, apples, papayas and plums worldwide, with Europe as a major market. In 2013, the British and Dutch made almost two thirds of purchases, followed by Spain, the U.S., Germany, Portugal, France, Uruguay, the UAE, Canada, Bangladesh, Italy and Argentina.

In Europe, food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is legally required to be safety tested and labelled, however no specific procedures have been adopted to identify GM maggots in fruit imports. Live GM flies could also be transported in the fruit as the genetic killing mechanism affects only female flies.