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Risks of potential release of genetically modified mosquitoes evaluated

Publication date: 06 July 2017
Modificationdate: 14 July 2017

On Saba, a Dutch Caribbean island, diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and zika can be reduced by the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. The mosquito is modified in such a way that it can suppress local mosquito populations that transmit these diseases. Potential release of these mosquitoes on Saba is considered to pose negligible risks to human health and the environment.

RIVM's GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) Office was commissioned by the Executive Council of Saba to perform this evaluation. Among others, this evaluation looked into the following aspects: can the genetic modification increase the efficiency of the mosquito to spread diseases or is it unhealthy if people accidentally swallow a genetically modified mosquito?  Furthermore, possible effects on the food chain were determined. It was concluded from the evaluation that potential release of these mosquitoes on Saba poses negligible risks to human health and the environment.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits viruses that cause diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and zika. The mosquito is controlled because these infectious diseases constitute a major public health problem. In order to fight these diseases a British company has genetically modified the mosquito to suppress local mosquito populations. The modification causes the mosquitoes' offspring to die prematurely.

The evaluation of the efficacy of deployment of the genetically modified mosquitoes was not part of this technical evaluation. The same applies to socio-economic effects or to the desirability of using these genetically modified mosquitoes. The Council of Saba will determine whether these mosquitoes will be released.

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