PETALING JAYA: The release of laboratory mosquitoes in Bentong last month continues to draw condemnation from groups concerned about uncertainties in the experiment.
They are especially critical of the secrecy of the exercise.
The Institute of Medical Research (IMR) said on Wednesday that 6,000 genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever were released in an uninhabited forest outside Bentong on Dec 31 and that “the experiment was successfully concluded” on Jan 5.
PAS today became the first political party to condemn the field test, saying the news was “shocking”.
Pahang PAS commissioner Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, in a statement carried on Harakahdaily, said his office had received “many complaints” since the release was reported.
“The people have been caught by surprise,” he said.
Tuan Man is also a vice president of his party.
Opponents of the IMR test are dismayed because they which were under the impression that the government had postponed the release to an unspecified date in deference to the negative public sentiment that has been apparent since last October, when the National Biosafety Board anonunced its approval.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) described the surreptitious nature of the test as “outrageous”.
“We hold the concerned agencies fully responsible for the consequences of the release of the GM mosquitoes,” SAM said in a press statement signed by its president, SM Mohamed Idris, who said he was speaking as well for the Penang Consumers’ Association, which he also leads.
According to authorities, the 6,000 insects were all male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. But the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development of Malaysia (CETDEM) expressed concern that female mosquitoes might have been accidentally released.
“The available information provided does not indicate whether the reliability and efficiency of the sex selection process can be guaranteed,” a CETDEM press statement said.
“The accidental release of a percentage of GE female mosquitoes will raise further concerns, as females act as vectors for diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.”
In another statement, a group calling itself the ‘Coalition Anti Genetically Modified Mosquito’ also condemned the government’s move to release the GM mosquitoes.
The group accused the government of not informing the public first of its intention to release the GM mosquitoes in Bentong.
“We can see that the government is trying to avoid the opposition from the residents and the NGOs so that they can implement the project smoothly without any disturbance,” the group said.
The GM mosquito carries a DNA fragment designed to curb its fertility. It was developed by Oxitec, an Oxford-based biotechnology company.
Last year, Oxitec carried out a field trial in the Cayman Islands involving the release of about three million GM male mosquitoes. The company said the local population of the Aedes aegypti fell by 80 per cent.