Activists from across India have demanded that if the government agrees to release genetically modified (GM) mosquitos, they should be labeled as such. This follows the news (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/fighting-mosquito-with-mosquito-a-gm-size-bite-against-dengue/) that India may allow the GM bzzzers in a bid to contain normal mosquitos, for if the two mate, the offspring will die before reaching maturity, thereby eventually wiping out the population entirely. Since however no-one knows the timing of the ‘eventually’, both GM and normal mosquitos will continue to bite, hence the demand for labeling.
Industry and government sources have said, under conditions of anonymity, that this demand by activists was, like most demands by activists (this part was especially why they requested anonymity), untenable. Labeling each of the modified insects would be costly and time-consuming. Given that health budgets had also been Modified by the government, and in view of strictures from the very top to expedite all projects and schemes, neither adequate money nor sufficient time was available. There would, however, be an attempt to introduce some physical feature in the GM biters, so that bitees could identify them and take evasive action (or not). One such possibility was an extra gleam in the eyes, or a zzzzzzbing rather than a bzzzzzing sound. An industry scientist with a sense of humour even said they could try to make the sound pleasantly lullabyish; for the first time in history mosquitos may actually help people go to sleep. He added, with an extra gleam in his eye, that this sleep-inducing feature may be especially targeted at activists.
Animal rights activists have meanwhile decried the GM experiments on mosquitos. They (and some cultural rights folks) are especially upset about the zzzzzzbing thing, saying that mosquitos have been bzzzzzzzing for millennia, and it was cruel to force them into reversing this ancient chant. Anti-abortionists and pro-lifers have also joined in, denouncing the ‘offspring won’t live till adulthood’ feature.
Some activists are also worried about the gender dimension, stating that since women have sweeter blood, they may be affected more. However this was decried by some feminists as ‘essentialising’ women.
Though this is not yet confirmed, the first of the GM mosquitos to be released may be called Bzz Aldrin; sources denied any connection to the astronaut, or to the pesticide, they said it ‘just sounded groovy’.
(Reported, on the basis of extensive talks with industry insiders and bzzybody activists, by Ashish Kothari)
PS. What is a Minister of State’s visit to Quito called? MoSQuito!
8 October, 2015