Open Letter on the release of GM mosquitos in Malaysia

Open Letter from Civil Society Organizations in Response to the Field Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Malaysia

February 2011
4 pages
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EcoNexus as one of 74 civil society organizations around the world

Open Letter from 9 February 2011 to

  • Y.B. Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Health
  • Y.B. Dato Sri Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Natural Resources & Environment
  • Dato’ Zoal Azha bin Yusof, Secretary General, Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment and Chairperson, National Biosafety Board (NBB)
  • Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Hj Mohd. Ismail bin Merican, Director General of Health
  • Mr Letchumanan Ramatha, Director General of Biosafety
  • Dr Shahnaz Murad, Director, Institute of Medical Research (IMR)

Many of us were among the 87 civil society organizations from around the world that sent you, in December 2010, a statement of concern regarding the field release of genetically modified (GM) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Malaysia. At the time, we had stated that it was not clear when such releases would occur, but given the tremendous international interest in the issue, it would be regrettable if the field trials were to be shrouded in secrecy.
It has recently come to our attention that the field trials have actually happened, on 21 December 2010 and were completed on 5 January 2011. This was brought to light through a press statement dated 25 January 2011, issued by the proponent of the field experiments, the Institute for Medical Research (IMR). However, as late as 4 January 2011, there were press reports in the Malaysian media stating that the trials had been postponed. It therefore appears that neither the local communities nor the Malaysian public at large knew that these trials had occurred.

We wish to express our dismay and regret that the opportunity for transparency and confidence in the tests and the science (and oversight) behind the tests has been lost. We had hoped that lessons could be learnt from the field releases in 2009 and 2010 of the same GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, which had been strongly criticized for being conducted without public consultation or ethical oversight, for failure to
publish appropriate and robust risk assessment, and for not seeking the informed consent from local people.
How sad that once again, we are forced to lose confidence in a technology, which apparently can only thrive on secrecy. While the risks associated with the GM mosquitoes would not disappear with increased transparency, honest and timely disclosure would have demonstrated sincerity in approaching the issue.
Furthermore, as our previous letter highlighted, meaningful and effective public participation and consultation are pre-requisites for such a controversial application of GM technology. While we appreciate that some efforts have been made towards this end, the reaction that the announcement has provoked clearly indicates that discussion and consultation are still sorely needed. Given the risks associated with the GM mosquitoes, any plans to release them into the environment, ‘inhabited’ or ‘uninhabited’, must be subject to full prior public disclosure for the people’s free, prior and informed consent. Therefore, we respectfully urge you to seriously consider putting in place a better mechanism that can meet this requirement.
Now that the trials have gone ahead, we respectfully call on the Malaysian authorities to carry out robust and detailed monitoring of the field test site in order to identify if there have been any negative impacts on the local ecology and human health. The monitoring plan should be accompanied by public reporting, as well as a plan for remedial and compensatory action to be taken should any adverse effects occur.
We respectfully call on the Malaysian authorities to publicly release the full report and analysis of the field trials. We also earnestly call for the cessation of all further field trials of the GM mosquitoes for the good of the Malaysian public and its environment.

Thank you for your kind consideration of our views.
Yours sincerely,

  1. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
  2. African Biodiversity Network (ABN)
  3. African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), South Africa
  4. AGRA Watch
  5. Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia (AS-PTA), Brazil
  6. All India Drug Action Network
  7. Archdiocese of Manila Ministry on Ecology, Philippines
  8. Ban Toxics, Philippines
  9. Biowatch South Africa
  10. Broad Initiative for Negros Development (BIND), Philippines
  11. Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
  12. Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones de Derecho Rural y Reforma Agraria
    (CEIDRA), Paraguay
  13. Centro Ecológico, Brazil
  14. COCAP, Philippines
  15. COECOCEIBA-Friends of the Earth Costa Rica
  16. Council for Responsible Genetics
  17. Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, USA
  18. Diverse Women for Diversity
  19. Doctors for Food Safety and Biosafety, India
  20. Ecological Society of the Philippines
  21. EcoNexus, UK
  22. Edmonds Institute, USA
  23. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  24. ETC Group
  25. Farmers Forum-South Cotabato, Philippines
  26. Food and Water Europe
  27. Food and Water Watch USA
  28. Freedom from Debt Coalition – South Cotabato, Sranggani and General Santos Chapter, Philippines
  29. Friends of the Earth International
  30. Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone
  31. GeneWatch UK
  32. GM Freeze, UK
  33. GM Watch, UK
  34. Green Alert Negros, Philippines
  35. Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, Philippines
  36. Green Families and Communities Network (GFCN), a.k.a. World Environment Day Philippines (WED-Phils.), Philippines
  37. Greenpeace Southeast Asia
  38. Inf'OGM, France
  39. Initiative for Health and Equity in Society (IHES), India
  40. Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), UK
  41. JPICC-AMRSP, Philippines
  42. Justice and Peace, Marbel, Philippines
  43. Kalimudan Culture and Arts, Glamang Organic Farmers Association, Philippines
  44. Lingkod-Tao-Kalikasan, Philippines
  45. MASIPAG-Visayas, Philippines
  46. Navdanya Trust, India
  47. Negros Island for Sustainable and Rural Development (NISARD) – Negros Occidental, Philippines
  48. Negros Island for Sustainable and Rural Development (NISARD) – Negros Oriental, Philippines
  49. Negros Occidental Office of Provincial Agriculture, Philippines
  50. Negros Organic Agriculture Movement (NOAM), Philippines
  51. Network for a GE-Free Latin America (RALLT)
  52. Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ, USA
  53. Network Opposed to GMOs-Philippines
  54. Oakland Institute, USA
  55. OGM Dangers, France
  56. Organic Consumers Association, USA
  57. Partnership for Clean Air, Philippines
  58. Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP)
  59. Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
  60. Pesticide Action Network Uruguay
  61. Planetary Health, Inc., USA
  62. Red de Acción en Alternativas al Uso de Agrotóxicos de Venezuela (RAPAL Venezuela)
  63. Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India
  64. SAI (Save Animals Initiative) Sanctuary Trust, India
  65. Sanib-Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan (SALIKA), Philippines
  66. Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (Wellspring of Science and Technology), Philippines
  67. SRI Pilipinas, Philippines
  68. Sunray Harvesters, India
  69. Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville, USA
  70. Sustainable Integrated Area Development Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergence for Asset Reform and Rural Development (SIMCARRD), Philippines
  71. Terra de Direitos, Brazil
  72. Thanal, India
  73. Third World Network (TWN)
  74. Washington Biotechnology Action Council, USA