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Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in the US

| February 5, 2016
OX513A GE male (left) and female (right) mosquitoes emerging as adults from the water.

OX513A GE male (left) and female (right) mosquitoes emerging as adults from the water.

With the recent revolution in molecular biology many desirable traits can now be engineered into in a wide range of organisms. Genetic engineering of plants and animals is becoming a standard and powerful tool to improve and protect crops and prevent diseases. Transgenic plants have driven the regulatory landscape so far, but other organisms are now presenting different challenges. So far only two transgenic animals have been ‘approved’ for commercial use in the US: Glofish® and the ATryn goat. With Glofish®, Zebrafish were genetically engineered to produce a fluorescent protein, which under UV light glows different colours, depending on the type of fluorescent protein that is being expressed. The ATryn goat was genetically engineered to express the anticoagulant antithrombin in its milk (FDA 2009). For the Glofish®, whose use is as an ornamental species, it appeared not to fall under any of the statutes (Plant Pest Act, Food and Drug Cosmetic Act, Environmental Protection Act, Insecticide, Fungicide or Rodenticide Act, Fish and Wildlife Act etc.) under which biotechnology is regulated in the US, although it was reviewed by the USDA, EPA and FDA under the Co-ordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Co-ordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology 1986), however no formal “approval” was given. Therefore, only the ATryn goat has gained approval through the regulatory process in the US. There are several GE animal products, at various stages, going through the regulatory process with the different agencies, depending on their use. These include the Aquabounty Aquavantage® Salmon, GE Pink Bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) and Diamond-back moths (Plutella xylostella) and GE mosquitoes (Ae. aegypti) with varying degrees of success and timeframes. For example, the Aquabounty Aquavantage® Salmon has been in regulatory review with the FDA since 2003 and a draft Environmental Assessment was published for public review in 2013; no regulatory decision has been made to date. However, if approved this would be the first GE animal accepted for human consumption. As a case study, this article will focus on a transgenic mosquito currently going through the regulatory process in the US with emphasis on the current regulatory landscape, the successes, challenges and the future.

This is an extract of the full article published in: Outlooks on Pest Management – October 2015 issue.

The full text of this article is available to subscribers of Outlooks on Pest Management.
Non-subcribers may buy & download full text article.

Author: Derric David Nimmo and Camilla Beech, Oxitec Ltd, 71 Innovation Drive,  Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX144RQ, UK

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Category: Public health

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