The mosquito is certainly among Earth’s most hated creatures, and for a variety of reasons. The least important of these reasons–its annoying buzz–is enough to summon the first degree murderer in nearly every human. Who among us has the mental fortitude to lie tranquilly in bed without plotting the violent death of a mosquito that lurks in the protected airspace? Aside from the sleep-disturbing sound caused by mosquitoes of both genders, the female mosquito provokes more serious concerns ranging from an itchy allergic reaction to her otherwise-benign probe, to the sometimes-fatal consequence of passing viruses between people. A look at world history will reveal that the mosquito may be more deserving of the title “public enemy #1” than even the most horrendously deranged humans. Since mosquitoes can easily spread diseases like malaria, yellow fever, west nile, and dengue fever, humans have a good reason to take preventative defensive measures. In the past, even the mightiest empires have underestimated and misunderstood the world’s tiniest air force, and with devastating consequences. Today, we must be more intelligent and more strategic than ever. We must learn from our past, and make calculated decisions. And we must always remember that some things are incalculable!
Queen Elizabeth, take note!
Oxitec Ltd. of England has developed a genetically modified mosquito dubbed OX513A that also flies under the aliases “suicide mosquito”, “dead-end bug” and even “Frankenskeeter”.
But G.M. is no joke!
The all-male robo-mosquitoes contain a “lethality gene” that is supposed to ensure the premature demise of the subsequent generation of mosquitoes. If all goes smoothly, the local mosquito population will drop. But that is one enormous “IF”. The half-baked plan contains at minimum, the following gigantic flaws:
- if the mosquitoes are exposed to the antibiotic tetracycline, the mutant mosquitoes will survive as flying zombies with untold capabilities and subject to an infinite number of future mutations.
- tetracycline is commonly used by humans and other animals, so it is a practical certainty that some percentage of mosquitoes will be exposed.
- the plan requires “overwhelming” the native mosquitoes with transgenic ones at a ratio of 10 to 1.
- the plan targets only the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, and does nothing to prevent other types of mosquitoes from adapting to fill its disease-spreading niche, and both natural and engineered adaptations are likely to result in new species that are stronger than the present target.
- according to Camilo Rodriguez-Beltran, a Chilean biosecurity expert that was trained in France, the gene-altered mosquitoes could cross international boundaries, violating international treaties on biosafety. “All consequences that could occur are unforeseen,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been developed very rapidly.”
And very stupidly, I may add. The mosquito is already dangerous enough as it is. Screwing with its genes could prove to be detrimental to human life. Olmedo Carrasquilla, a Panamanian environmental lawyer, said that Panama should educate the public on mosquito control. He asks “Why invest millions in methods and technology when there are no guarantees and when there are rudimentary methods that work?” 120,000 people in South Florida apparently agree. Angry residents temporarily blocked a plan to test Oxitec’s robo-mosquito in the Florida Keys last year. Here’s hoping the plan will be dropped rather than delayed. Oxitec mosquitoes have been tested in the Cayman Islands, Brazil and Malaysia and may soon be tested in India, Florida and Panama, unless governments can WAKE UP to the imminent dangers in time. Besides the best-known strategy for mosquito prevention of dumping stangnant water to reduce mosquito breeding, there are other strategies. My favorite strategy comes from the Kuna indigenous tribe, which currently resides in the beautiful Caribbean archipelago called San Blas, or Kuna Yala in the Kuna language. The Kunas have survived for thousands of years in jungles, mountains and islands. Their survival depends on a healthy co-existence with nature. The Kunas have developed an advanced and complete system of natural medicine that is known as Tuleina. Tuleina is not well-recorded (yet!) but it contains the knowledge of thousands of beneficial plants, at least one for every known and unknown medical condition. To protect themselves from the pesky mosquito, the Kuna take one cup of herbal tea, which successfully wards off mosquitoes for a month or longer. I have taken this tea only a few times in the past eleven years, and I’ve not had a single mosquito bite in over a decade! And I’ve never had to resort to using (toxic) bug spray, not do I fumigate, nor do I sleep in a net. The mosquitoes simply do not come near me. Even when sitting outside, surrounded by others that complain about the nasty insects, the tiny predators keep a healthy distance from me. So much so that in the last decade, I’ve scarcely even heard their once-familiar buzz. The lesson to be learned here is that, when confronting a natural problem, it is far better to search for the natural solution, rather than seeking the most complicated, most expensive, and most patentable “solution”, that will eventually reveal itself as the most idiotic, most ridiculous and most dangerous course ever taken.