Do Africans Want Genetically Modified Mosquitoes?

U. Effiong,  The Pursuit,  2020.

The recent publication by fellow Nigerian scientists—Patricia Okorie and colleagues—originally drew my attention to the issue of GMMs. With over 100 million people at risk of malaria, dengue, and yellow fever, Nigeria has the largest burden of mosquito-borne diseases in Africa. But mosquito-control programs in Africa have seen little success because of insecticide resistance and difficulties in scaling up successful strategies such as the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed-nets.

Given that, Okorie and colleagues decided to consult other Nigerian researchers about alternatives. And the vast majority were skeptical about a potential release. Many expressed concerns that GMMs could spread in an uncontrolled manner beyond release sites. Other concerns were related to the production of hybrids with unknown consequences; the possibility that GMMs could transmit unknown diseases, be resistant to insecticides, harm ecosystems; and of course, the cost of such initiatives.

With further analysis, however, the Okorie team concluded that while a majority of participants were skeptical, most would encourage the strategy provided there were contingency measures to remove them if an unanticipated risk became evident during the release. Not surprisingly, Okorie’s study was criticized as not representing the views of Nigerian scientists. Georgina Mwansat, an entomologist at the University of Jos, noted that sampling only 164 researchers from two of Nigeria’s 36 states “is not enough to form an opinion on all of the scientists in the country.”

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