United States — The World Health Organization announced it will convene an Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations on Monday, February 1, concerning the Zika virus ‘explosive’ spread throughout the Americas. The virus reportedly has the potential to reach pandemic proportions — possibly around the globe. But understanding why this outbreak happened is vital to curbing it. As the WHO statement said:
A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes ... is strongly suspected. [These links] have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.WHO is deeply concerned about this rapidly evolving situation for 4 main reasons: the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes; the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector; the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas; and the absence of vaccines, specific treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests [...]The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty.
Zika seemingly exploded out of nowhere. Though it was first discovered in 1947, cases only sporadically occurred throughout Africa and southern Asia. In 2007, the first case was reported in the Pacific. In 2013, a smattering of small outbreaks and individual cases were officially documented in Africa and the western Pacific. They also began showing up in the Americas. In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus — and the situation changed dramatically.
Brazil is now considered the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which coincides with at least 4,000 reports of babies born with microcephaly just since October.
When examining a rapidly expanding potential pandemic, it’s necessary to leave no stone unturned so possible solutions, as well as future prevention, will be as effective as possible. In that vein, there was another significant development in 2015.
Oxitec first unveiled its large-scale, genetically-modified mosquito farm in Brazil in July 2012, with the goal of reducing “the incidence of dengue fever,” as The Disease Dailyreported. Dengue fever is spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus — and though they “cannot fly more than 400 meters,” WHO stated, “it may inadvertently be transported by humans from one place to another.” By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Brazil, Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes aegyptimosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%.”
Though that might sound like an astounding success — and, arguably, it was — there is an alarming possibility to consider.
Nature, as one Redditor keenly pointed out, finds a way — and the effort to control dengue, zika, and other viruses, appears to have backfired dramatically.
Juazeiro, Brazil — the location where genetically-modified mosquitoes were first released into the wild.
Map showing the concentration of suspected Zika-related cases of microcephaly in Brazil.
The particular strain of Oxitec GM mosquitoes, OX513A, are genetically altered so the vast majority of their offspring will die before they mature — though Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher published concerns in a report in September 2010 that a known survival rate of 3-4 percent warranted further study before the release of the GM insects. Her concerns, which were echoed by several other scientists both at the time and since, appear to have been ignored — though they should not have been.
Those genetically-modified mosquitoes work to control wild, potentially disease-carrying populations in a very specific manner. Only the male modified Aedes mosquitoes are supposed to be released into the wild — as they will mate with their unaltered female counterparts. Once offspring are produced, the modified, scientific facet is supposed to ‘kick in’ and kill that larvae before it reaches breeding age — if tetracycline is not present during its development. But there is a problem.
According to an unclassified document from the Trade and Agriculture Directorate Committee for Agriculture dated February 2015, Brazil is the third largest in “global antimicrobial consumption in food animal production” — meaning, Brazil is third in the world for its use of tetracycline in its food animals. As a study by the American Society of Agronomy, et. al., explained, “It is estimated that approximately 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in waste.” One of the antibiotics (or antimicrobials) specifically named in that report for its environmental persistence is tetracycline.
Aedes aegypti mosquito. Image credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim
In fact, as a confidential internal Oxitec document divulged in 2012, that survival rate could be as high as 15% — even with low levels of tetracycline present. “Even small amounts of tetracycline can repress” the engineered lethality. Indeed, that 15% survival rate was described by Oxitec:
After a lot of testing and comparing experimental design, it was found that [researchers] had used a cat food to feed the [OX513A] larvae and this cat food contained chicken. It is known that tetracycline is routinely used to prevent infections in chickens, especially in the cheap, mass produced, chicken used for animal food. The chicken is heat-treated before being used, but this does not remove all the tetracycline. This meant that a small amount of tetracycline was being added from the food to the larvae and repressing the [designed] lethal system.
Even absent this tetracycline, as Steinbrecher explained, a “sub-population” of genetically-modified Aedes mos
could theoretically develop and thrive, in theory, “capable of
surviving and flourishing despite any further” releases of ‘pure’ GM
mosquitoes which still have that gene intact. She added, “the
effectiveness of the system also depends on the [genetically-designed]
late onset of the lethality. If the time of onset is altered due to
environmental conditions ... then a 3-4% [survival rate] represents a
much bigger problem...”
As the WHO stated in its press release, “conditions associated with this year’s El Nino weather pattern are expected to increase mosquito populations greatly in many areas.”
Incidentally, President Obama called for a massive research effort to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, as one does not currently exist. Brazil has now called in 200,000 soldiers to somehow help combat the virus’ spread. Aedes mosquitoes have reportedly been spottedin the U.K. But perhaps the most ironic — or not — proposition was proffered on January 19, by the MIT Technology Review:
An outbreak in the Western Hemisphere could give countries including the United States new reasons to try wiping out mosquitoes with genetic engineering.Yesterday, the Brazilian city of Piracicaba said it would expand the use of genetically modified mosquitoes ...The GM mosquitoes were created by Oxitec, a British company recently purchased by Intrexon, a synthetic biology company based in Maryland. The company said it has released bugs in parts of Brazil and the Cayman Islands to battle dengue fever.
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“Okay, boys, here’s what we do. We’ve got this old virus called Zika. It’s been around for 60 years that we know of. It never caused anything serious. A real dud. But we’ve got to explain all these babies born with small heads and brain damage. We’ve got to protect some important people and shield them from heavy blame. So let’s bring back Zika. Even though very few mothers who give birth to babies with defects have the dud-virus, we can finesse that. People are idiots. So let’s build up Zika into a terrifying killer. Get our PR folks moving. Spread some money around. You know, the usual. And we make out on the back-end with a Zika vaccine.”
This is the third article in my series on the Zika Freakout. In my previous piece, I listed six top candidates for causing smaller heads and brain damage in Brazilian babies.
None of those candidates is the Zika virus, which has a history of creating only minor illness, at worst. My top six may, indeed, be working together to bring about disastrous consequences.
In this article, I’ll focus on one candidate, the genetically-engineered (GE) mosquitoeswhich have already been released in Brazil, with the aim of decimating the population of mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya.
First of all, and ominously, the GE mosquitoes were released in the same area of Brazil (Juazeiro) where now most of the birth defects are being reported. This is called a clue. But who is deeply investigating it? No one in official circles.
This is akin to saying, “Well, we just toured the war-torn city. Of course, last week we bombed it, but that couldn’t possibly account for the destruction.”
The company releasing the GE mosquitoes, Oxitec, has grants for their experiments from Bill Gates—never a good sign.
Oxitec is owned by Intrexon, which is owned by billionaire Randal J Kirk. The Hoovers profile of Intrexon, offers this:
One man’s frankenfood is another man’s solution to world hunger. Intrexon is developing technology that uses synthetic biology, or biological engineering, to make advances in everything from pharmaceuticals to genetically modified plants and animals. The company has development agreements with AquaBounty (genetically modified salmon...)
Genetically modified animals. Just what we need. What could go wrong? And the highly controversial GE salmon is under attack for the usual reason: the omission of actual science that proves this fish is safe for consumption and won’t wreak havoc in the aqua-environment.
Intrexon employs the famous Dr. Sam Broder as its Senior Vice-President, Health Sector. For six years, Broder was the Director of the US National Cancer Institute. He was instrumental in bringing the AIDS drug, AZT, to market. This previously failed chemotherapy drug was taken off the shelf and subjected to a scandal-ridden clinical trial, which resulted in FDA approval. AZT isextremely toxic. It prevents human cells from replicating. It suppresses the immune system—the very system AIDS is supposed to be attacking. Other than that, no problem.
On November 28, 2011, Intrexon Chairman Randal Kirk welcomed two new executives to the company’s board of directors: Robert B. Shapiro and Jeffrey B. Kindler. Shapiro was the former CEO of Monsanto and NutraSweet (aspartame). Kindler was the former CEO of drug giant Pfizer and Executive VP and General Counsel of McDonald’s. If those boys don’t inspire trust, who could? Cancer-causing Roundup, brain-attacking aspartame, Bextra ($2.3 billion fine paid out), and check-your-colon-at-the-door Big Macs. If they release a genetically-engineered mosquito, you know it’s safe—and delicious, too.
Intrexon’s GE male-mosquito “triumph” is based on the following: the male will mate with female mosquitoes that carry Zika; the females will give birth, but their offspring won’t advance past the larval stage. Thus, the Zika-carrying insect population will decline drastically. However, no long-term safety studies have been done. This is a grand insect and human experiment.
“Let’s try it and see what happens. What possible problems could develop? How could a genetically-engineered mosquito possibly affect humans in an adverse way? Nonsense. Everything’s fine.”
Is it? In her excellent Activist Post article (1/28), “Zika Outbreak Epicenter...”, Claire Bernish probes deeper into the “science.” She uncovers a little-known antibioticconnect
and rips a gaping hole in the bland assurance that all is well. I
strongly recommend reading her piece. I’ll cobble together an excerpt:
Those genetically-modified mosquitoes work to control wild, potentially disease-carrying populations in a very specific manner. Only the male [GE] modified Aedes mosquitoes are supposed to be released into the wild — as they will mate with their unaltered female counterparts. Once offspring are produced, the [GE] modified, scientific facet is supposed to ‘kick in’ and kill that larvae before it reaches breeding age — if tetracycline [antibiotic] is not present during [the larvae’s] development. But there is a problem. (emphasis added)According to an unclassified document from the Trade and Agriculture Directorate Committee for Agriculture dated February 2015, Brazil is the third largest in ‘global antimicrobial consumption in food animal production’ — meaning, Brazil is third in the world for its use of tetracycline [antibiotics] in its food animals. As a study by the American Society of Agronomy, et. al., explained, ‘It is estimated that approximately 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in waste.’ One of the antibiotics (or antimicrobials) specifically named in that report for its environmental persistence is tetracycline.In fact, as a confidential internal Oxitec document divulged in 2012, that survival rate [of offspring] could be as high as 15% — even with low levels of tetracycline present. ‘Even small amounts of tetracycline can repress’ the engineered lethality. Indeed, that 15% survival rate was described by Oxitec...
The bottom line? The excreted tetracycline-laden waste of farm animals makes it way to the mosquito breeding grounds. The GE male mosquito mates with the female, and far more offspring survive than were planned — because the offspring, in their larvae stage, are feeding on tetracycline-tainted food and water. What qualities do these survivors carry? They are the children of a natural insect and a GE insect. They bite humans. They are unknowns. In the history of the planet, they’ve never existed before. Of course, we’re told there is no problem. We’re told that scientists have everything under control. If you buy that on face value, I have condos for sale on Jupiter.
And again, there is this nagging factor: the surge in horrendous birth defects in Brazil is happening in the same area where the GE mosquitoes were released, and thus where some of their natural-GE-hybrid offspring may have survived.
Don’t worry, be happy. They’re just tinkering with genes. They didn’t need to do safety studies. They have a theory. The theory must be correct. And it’s only mosquitoes, after all. Little things. They bite a person’s neck, the person swats them with his hand. End of story.
Unless it isn’t.
Thank you, Oxitec. Thank you, Bill Gates. Thank you, Intrexon. Thank you, Randal Kirk. Thank you, Sam Broder.
Thus far in this article, I haven’t mentioned the word conspiracy once. But if you want to go there, what about this? Who can say, with authority, what these male genetically-engineered mosquitoes are equipped to carry? Who can say with assurance he knows all the qualities and factors and substances in the bodies of these insects?
It’s very much like looking at the faint trail of a very high-flying, high-tech, up-to-the-minute military jet. Do you know everything that’s on board? Do you know, beyond listed specs, what that plane is actually designed to be capable of?
Oh, and by the way, researchers are now “rushing” to develop a vaccine for Zika. You know, Zika, the virus that doesn’t cause anything.
Laura J Alcorn