May 27, 2018

Failed in the Field? New evidence of failures of Oxitec’s GM mosquito trials

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GeneWatch UK today published a new briefing on Oxitec’s genetically modified () mosquitoes (1), which have been released in open air experiments in the , and Brazil. The briefing includes new evidence recently released as a result of Freedom of Information requests, which shows that scientists at the Mosquito Control and Research Unit (MRCU) in the who have access to the experimental data believe there has been “no significant reduction in the abundance of Aedes aegypti in the release area”.

The briefing also highlights that, in the Cayman Islands, there was a significant increase in the number of female mosquitoes collected in the experimental release area, which is likely due to the inadvertent release of large numbers of female GM mosquitoes, which can bite and transmit disease.

Oxitec, a UK company now owned by US company Intrexon, has repeatedly claimed that its experiments have been successful, achieving over 90% reduction of the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, which carries tropical diseases including dengue and zika. The new briefing examines Oxitec’s claims and finds they are not supported by the published evidence from any of the countries where GM mosquitoes have been released to date. There is no direct evidence of a fall in the population of biting female mosquitos, which transmit disease, or of any reduction in infection.

The inadvertent release of large numbers of biting female mosquitoes during the experiments may instead increase the risk of diseases spreading between local people.

The briefing also highlights major concerns about the costs of Oxitec’s technology, and evidence that the company is suffering from production problems due to issues such as mould in its production facilities.

“If Oxitec’s claims are not supported by the evidence, this raises serious questions about due diligence and about whether members of the public, mosquito control units, health ministries and Intrexon’s investors are being misinformed about the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of this approach”, said , Director of GeneWatch UK, “Funding new technologies that do not work wastes money and puts lives at risk by diverting limited resources”.

For further information contact:

(1) Oxitec’s GM insects: Failed in the Field? GeneWatch UK Briefing. May 2018. http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Failed_in_the_field_fin.pdf

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