Just how do you make a GMO mosquito? Let Oxitec show you the way… In their official filing with the FDA, the company discloses exactly which animals, bacteria, and viruses are used to make the artificial animal. There are 6 species in total, including Herpes Simplex virus and E. Coli. bacteria.
The animals, bacteria, and viruses inserted into Oxitec’s mosquito DNA. Source: FDA Report.
In order to be patentable, genetically modified organisms like Oxitec’s GMO mosquito must be artificial animals which do not exist in nature. The genes which have been assembled to make them must be disclosed, insofar as they are known, to the patent office. In addition to the functional genes which provide the product’s desired effects (in this case, crippling mosquitoes), these patented sequences often contain marker genes like the ones Monsanto uses to identify their seeds and sue landowners. They also contain remnants of “helper” genes used to move the process along or to boost or suppress other gene behaviors.
Over 8,000 DNA Base Pairs Added
Oxitec product manager Derric Nimmo is fond of describing the OX513A GMO mosquito has having only “two genes” inserted into it. But as you can see from the chart above, the company disclosed to the FDA that it actually inserted twenty gene sequences comprised of 8,353 individual base pairs from five different species. These were added to two different strains of Aedes aegypti which were cross-bred numerous times to create a hybrid which has never existed in nature. This hybrid lab animal then had 8,353 artificial genetic base pairs inserted into its DNA, including specific gene sequences designed to keep the fake DNA from moving around further.
Uncoded DNA To “Fill In The Missing Bits?”
Of particular interest are the seven rows on the chart indicating uncoded DNA. This is a polite way of saying that Oxitec doesn’t know what those sequences mean or what functions they provide (or inhibit). Bio-engineering companies like to pretend that DNA manipulation is an exact science with every gene fully understood. This is far from the truth. In reality, contemporary techniques for genetic slicing-and-dicing are fairly primitive, with many errors and omissions introduced during the process.
DNA examination is the Wild West of scientific frontiers, with prospectors looking for gold nuggets in every base pair. But this is science by trial-and-error, and the consequences of these errors cannot truly be known in advance. By Oxitec’s own admission, about 5% of the time, the “crippling” functions of the OX513A sequence fail to activate, allowing the GMO mosquitoes to reproduce in the wild. The company does not fully understand why the sequence fails sometimes, but it’s likely that part of the sequence arrives in some animals in the wrong order, or with missing or substituted proteins.
Starting Life with Damaged DNA
When the world entered the Atomic Age of the 50’s, radiation was widely promoted as a cure for all our biggest problems. Countries and corporations promised people free energy, water desalination, health benefits, and improved agriculture. What was not known in the fifties was that radiation damages living things by manipulating their DNA. The ionizing radiation emitted by nuclear bombs and nuclear waste also cuts apart DNA sequences, causing proteins to be re-arranged into new, nonfunctional groups. This DNA damage creates not only local injury but also whole-body effects. When it happens to chromosomes, the effects are passed on to the next generation.
The Oxitec OX513A GMO mosquito, like other GMO products, must begin life with damaged DNA. Through reproduction and environmental pollution, this damaged DNA can have unintended consequences for animals, plants, and human beings. Court filings in Grand Cayman, source of an early Oxitec test, show that crippling the Aedes aegypti mosquito results in the rise of the more dangerous Asian Tiger (A. albopictus) to take its place in nature. The Asian Tiger mosquito carries the same diseases as the aegypti Oxitec is targeting and is more difficult to combat with pesticides. How convenient, then, that Oxitec is also preparing a GMO Asian Tiger to sell for simultaneous release.
Not All Science Is Good Science
Oxtiec’s $100,000 public relations campaign uses the slogan “Science Matters” to sell their product on a rational, scientific appeal. But nuclear bombs were also promoted rationally, along with Nazi medical experiments, Agent Orange, and even the Hoover Dam (later found to be an environmental disaster). Simply being “science” doesn’t make something safe or even necessarily a good idea. GMO animals are not so much scientific as experimental. They’re the kind of experiment that the Florida Keys doesn’t need.