Monday, 21 December 2015

GM insect trials urged for UK

Medical correspondent

17 December 2015 

The government should launch a field trial of genetically modified insects,according to a House of Lords report.

The Lords Science and Technology Committee says GM could make insects unable to transmit diseases such as dengue and malaria.

It could also be used to control agricultural pests in the UK.

The report says EU genetically modified organisms (GMOs) regulation is "failing lamentably", and is "entirely on the basis of risk", ignoring the benefits.

Lord Selborne, who chairs the committee, said: "GM insect technologies have the potential not only to save countless lives worldwide, but also to generate significant economic benefits for UK plc, where we are an acknowledged world leader."

But he said the technology had come to a "screeching halt because the EU regulatory system is woefully inadequate".

GM insects are created by inserting DNA into their genome.

New gene editing techniques mean this can be done rapidly and cheaply.

One approach is to introduce a lethal gene whereby insects are able to reproduce but only to produce infertile offspring, with the aim of reducing overall population size.

Last week, a team at Imperial College London announced they had created an infertile GM mosquito.

Another approach is to modify an insect to make it immune to pathogens such as parasites, so preventing it from spreading disease.

The report says the government has a "moral duty" to test the potential of the technology and this should be used to drive public engagement.

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