Genetically engineered mosquitoes are due to be released in Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda by the Target Malaria research consortium. Target Malaria is a consortium of research institutes that receives core funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Silicon Valley companies and the Pentagon. In Burkina researchers recently secured government approval to release up to 10,000 sterile male Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes.
There were plans for similar studies in Florida Keys in the US, but these have been held up due to public opposition. The trial has prompted concerns among local civil society organisations in Uganda, who say their country is being set up as a laboratory for Sorcerer’s Apprentice technology (JW Goethe’s Zauberlehrling “Die Geister, die ich rief, werd ich nun nicht los”!) before the risks are fully understood (www.le faso. net 2018-10). No meaningful public consultation was made as mandated by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. No environmental risk assessment ERA as required by EU Directive 2001/18/EC for exporters was published. Target Malaria is paying a compensation of 400 CFA per hour to villagers to allow for the collection of biting mosquitoes from their own bodies. This is highly unethical. Africans feel like guinea pigs for trials with GM mosquitoes, RTS,S vaccines, new ACTs. Instead of investing in foreign technologies costing millions of dollar, they would prefer to be encouraged in the development of local, cheaper solutions like Artemisia annua herbal medicine.
There are partial precedents elsewhere. The UK biotech company Oxitech previously released genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Panama and Brazil. The company claimed that this led to declines in the carriers of dengue and zika, but opponents say a similar test in the Cayman Islands was abandoned amid reports that the female mosquito population increased instead of declining.
In April 2016, during the Zika panicking in Brazil, Tunusssi became the first neighborhood in Piracicaba to try a new control tool OX513A—a strain of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes designed to reduce the population by passing a lethal gene to their offspring. Billions of lab-grown mosquitoes were released. This release took place despite the fact that concerns had been raised about genetically modified insects which were released into Brazil 3 years before the Zika outbreak of 2016. Oxitec was even blamed for this Zika outbreak.
Erik Orsenna, a famous French author of many bestsellers, also describes the merits of the “molecular scissors” of Bill Gates against malaria in a recent book. He however raises some concerns. Mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem and their eradication might have disastrous, unforeseen consequences. As Kevin Esvelt from the Massachusetts Institue of Technoloy states: “Any experiments seeking to build gene drive systems that would spread in a wild species must not be performed in the ecosystems harbouring that species. It’s simply unwise”. But God knows why as a layperson in tropical diseases Orsenna wrote this additional beststeller “Géopolitique du Moustique” (ed Fayard) on a very complex and dramatic topic. During two years he toured the world on a mission sponsored by the Institut Pasteur. The book is full of commonplaces, dogmas, errors or inaccuracies.
On page 196 for example he describes Artemisia annua as an “ambroisie” (ragweed). Ragweed is a very toxic plant. On page 193 he claims that Youyou Tu isolated artemisinin in 1972 and that the Vietcong used this monotherapy and not the dried leaves of the plant as an infusion, as they did. On page 161 he describes the work of a research crew financed by Goldmann Sachs in Uganda, but ignores the groundbreaking finding of Dr Patrick Ogwang that Artemisia annua is prophylactic.
On page 211 he states that a malaria infection leaves no traces in the human body. He forgets the severe sequelae of cerebral malaria and the build-up of protective immunoglobulins E after repeated attacks.
The book is a masterpiece of vulgarization, because the majority of people in Northern countries don’t know what malaria is, how it is transmitted and eventually cured, what dramatic effects it has on education and economy on African countries. Malaria is a complex disease, the suffering for populations in the South is unbelievable, Western approaches have failed to eradicate de disease. It is even on the raise in many countries as WHO has recognized recently.
His book is a eulogy of his sponsors: the Institut Pasteur and Bigpharma. It is thus logical that he does not talk about herbal medicine, which according to WHO however represents 80% of the therapies used by people in malaria infected countries. He does not say a single word about herbal medicine like Artemisia annua or Artemisia afra, plants which have shown prophylactic, curative and suppressive cure rates, up to >95% in numerous clinical trials in African countries.
Malaria is not an interesting story, but a dramatic failure of WHO & Global Fund & Gates. Or, a bloody business and a genocide for Africa as the film “Malaria Business” of Bernard Crutzen (TV0 and RTBF) has shown.