By Michael Rodemeyer, Executive Director
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Additional resources for Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology)
2002). The paratransgenic approach to drivers involves the use of symbiont bacteria such as Wolbachia. As discussed in the section on paratransgenesis in agriculture, Wolbachia are a bacterium present in the reproductive tissues of many insects, including mosquitoes. In the case of mosquitoes, researchers hope to use Wolbachia either to express transgenes within or drive transgenes through mosquito populations (Townson 2002, Sinkins and O’Neill 2000). Infection by Wolbachia can confer a reproductive advantage to host insects, and in turn, enhance the chance of transmitting the Wolbachia further (Sinkins and O-Neill 2000).
At the moment, most work remains at the laboratory research stage, and in the event that a field test were required, some federal agency likely has the authority to review it. Moreover, at present, only a few hundred researchers worldwide work on transgenic insects. Their work, however, will eventually reach the field trial stage and shortly thereafter experimental releases will have to be considered. Therefore, the federal government needs to move deliberately, and quickly, to clarify how it intends to address the regulatory issues posed by GM insects.
Allowing, of course, for the fact that a certain amount of scientific uncertainty is inevitable and is part of the risk assessment process. The scientific knowledge of insect population biology and ecology may be limited, however, for some species. For example, scientists admit that “too little is known about natural populations and gene flow between mosquito subspecies to allow us to predict the fate of introduced genes” (Lycett and Kafatos 2002). The section entitled .. “Regulation of GM Insects” will further examine the risk assessment of GM insects.
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