SOURCE: The New Straits Times, Malaysia
DATE: 27.04.2008

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are not against new technologies to fight the dengue scourge but are against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which may cause more harm than good.

Acknowledging the need to progress with science, Cetdem抯 Gurmit Singh feared that the introduction of the GM mosquitoes into the wild to eliminate the aedes population could instead have serious consequences on the country's ecological system.

And like all GMOs, once they are released into the wild, how do you prevent them from interacting or crossbreeding with other insects and producing mutants which may be worse than the aedes mosquito he asked.

Although the technology sounds positive in getting rid of the dengue menace, we cannot take risks on a big scale because we really do not know the side effect these mosquitoes will have on other organisms and the eco-system.

Unless they have done enough studies to ascertain the safety of the GM mosquito and until these questions are answered, I would be uncomfortable with the use of GMOs.?

Fish and other insects such as the dragonfly feed on mosquito larvae.

Gurmit also questioned why Pulau Ketam was chosen for the field tests.

Is it because it is prone to dengue or is it because it is an island and therefore easier to control in the event something goes wrong??

He said there should also be effective monitoring of the project if it is implemented and suggested that it be done by a broad group of independent researchers from around the world.

Malaysian Nature Society president Datuk Dr Salleh Mohd Nor said it would be dangerous to release these GMOs into the wild with the hope that it would do the things it should do?

He said although scientists should not be stopped from carrying out trials and pioneering new technologies for the benefit of mankind, they should approach it with caution.

He is concerned that releasing it into the wild without thoroughly understanding its implications may affect the ecology and cause other diseases to be transmitted.?

Salleh also questioned whether the country was legally protected in the event something goes wrong with these field trials.

These issues have not been raised. We need adequate laws to ensure there is a mechanism in place to protect the country under such circumstances.?