SCIENTIFIC OPINION: In response to the referral of 12 October 2015 concerning use of genetically modified mosquitoes for vector control

High Council for Biotechnology,  High Council for Biotechnology (France),  2017.

On 12 October 2015 the High Council for Biotechnology (HCB) was asked by the Minister for the Environment to provide guidance on the use of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes for vector control of populations of pathogen-transmitting mosquitoes. The HCB Scientific Committee has prepared its opinion on the basis of a report by a working group of experts selected for their expertise in the subjects required. A review of the current position regarding mosquito-borne diseases (dengue, chikungunya, Zika virus disease, yellow fever, West Nile fever, malaria and lymphatic filariasis) in metropolitan and overseas France revealed the lack of therapeutic treatments and vaccines for most of these diseases and the limitations of current vector control methods for populations of mosquitoes transmitting the pathogens responsible for these diseases. To supplement the research being carried out in the medical field, it appears essential to explore techniques that can substitute for or complement existing vector control methods. The Scientific Committee’s opinion describes emerging vector control techniques using GM mosquitoes, the current state of research into and development of these techniques and the outcomes of initial experiments worldwide. To date, only one technique has been developed to an operational level: Oxitec’s RIDL technique, which sets out to reduce a mosquito population by repeated mass releases of sterilising transgenic males. Two other techniques at an earlier stage of research and development are based on gene drive, seeking to spread a genetic trait in a wild population, either to make the mosquitoes incapable of transmitting pathogens (gene drive for population modification) or to eliminate the population by spreading sterility (gene drive for population elimination).

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