6,000 GM mosquitoes airborne in Asia
The Institute of Medical Research announces that it released the insects in Bentong last month
Free Malaysia Today
January 26, 2011
PETALING JAYA: The Institute of Medical Research (IMR) released 6,000 genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in a forest near Bentong last month to test their flight range and ability to survive in a fresh attempt by the government to combat dengue.
According to an IMR statement, the release was made on Dec 21 and "the experiment was concluded on Jan 5".
It said the area, which was uninhabited, was fogged on Jan 6 and would be under observation for two months.
The news prompted outrage from the environmental group Third World Network (TWN). "It's shocking," said Lim Li Ching, a senior researcher for the group.
She said it was deplorable that IMR chose to announce the release one month after the fact and while the public was under the impression that it had been postponed.
But a senior official of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said the authorities were not concerned with the public outcry.
"It does not matter whether the public likes it or not" once the National Biosafety Board "has made a decision," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said the board gave its approval for the test last September and the release was delayed because of bad weather and not out of fear of public disapproval.
Civic groups opposed to the release claim there are too many uncertainties involved in the experiment. Among the concerns that have been expressed is that the mosquitoes' progeny may survive.
TWN's Lim deplored what she described as the "very silent manner" in which the Bentong experiment was conducted.
"It's shocking to hear that IMR has already conducted the field tests," she said.
"Though the release took place in an uninhabited place, the public should have been informed beforehand, especially the local residents.
"Not much is known about GM mosquitoes. Can the authorities guarantee that they will not fly to an inhabited area?"