By Michael Rodemeyer, Executive Director
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Extra info for Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology)
The vector ecologists stated that scientists “need to know the extent to which vector populations must be reduced in order to elicit required public health outcomes” (Scott et al. 2002). For example, several types of mosquitoes can transmit malaria, so introduction of one species of GM mosquito may not greatly affect malaria transmission. The ecologists noted that dengue researchers have had more trouble than malaria researchers in estimating the relationship between vector density and human infection.
Would the protozoa that cause Chagas’ disease adapt so that the kissing bug could once again transmit them? In the case of the sandfly, researchers are working on engineering bacteria in the sandfly’s gut in hopes of stopping the spread of leishmaniasis. Sandflies, however, differ from kissing bugs in that the parasite that causes leishmaniasis affects the fly itself (Hurd 2003). In this case, the parasite “chokes” the sandfly, forcing it to eat many small meals, thus effectively causing it to bite more and spread the parasite more effectively (Schlein et al.
For this reason, scientists have been working to genetically engineer honeybees (Robinson et al. 2000), to make them resistant to diseases and parasites. Scientists also aim to make them resistant to certain insecticides. Because honeybees forage for food among agricultural crops, they are sometimes exposed to insecticides used by farmers to protect crops against pest insects. Researchers may also focus on characteristics, such as cold tolerance and pollination abilities, because bees are susceptible to the cold and will freeze to death if their colonies are not protected and in good health.
Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology) by Michael Rodemeyer, Executive Director