MALAYASIAN BIOSAFETY BOARD ISSUES THE FIRST CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL FOR FIELD TRIAL OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) MOSQUITOES
The National Biosafety Board of Malaysia announced its first decision on an application for approval for a field trial to release genetically modified (GM) male mosquitoes. The Chair of the Board, who is also the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment announced that the Board has decided to issue a certificate of approval with terms and conditions to the Institute of Medical Research (IMR).
The National Biosafety Board of Malaysia announced its first decision on an application for approval for a field trial to release genetically modified (GM) male mosquitoes. The Chair of the Board, who is also the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment announced that the Board has decided to issue a certificate of approval with terms and conditions to the Institute of Medical Research (IMR). This approval permits the release of male GM Yellow Fever mosquitoe, Aedes aegypti OX513A(My1) strain and male non-GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoe (wild type) to conduct a field trial entitled “Limited Mark-Release-Recapture (MRR) of Aedes aegypti wild type and OX513A(My1). The proposed release sites are in Bentong, Pahang and Alor Gajah, Melaka. Only male mosquitoes will be released and male mosquitoes do not bite or carry the dengue virus.
The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC), which provides scientific and technical advice to the Board, has scrutinized the application and found that the proposed field trial does not endanger biological diversity or human, animal and plant health when proper risk management strategies are followed as stipulated through the terms and conditions imposed with the approval.
In reviewing this application, the Board received valuable feedback through the public consultation which was done in August this year for a period of 30 days. This is the first time that public consultation is carried out to review an application under the provisions of the Biosafety Act 2007 whereby concerns raised by the public are addressed and taken into consideration when making a decision involving biosafety. The Board received a total of 32 inputs from members of the public such as scientists, academicians, NGOs, private companies both local and abroad. Some individuals supported this initiative and hoped that this technology will help to curb dengue in the future. Some individuals, including NGOs opposed this field trial by highlighting uncertainties of the field trial and the effect it may have on the environment and biological diversity. Science-based issues were reviewed through GMAC and were included in the risk assessment. All views were thoroughly analyzed before the decision was made. A majority of inputs received stated that they supported the field trial on condition that it was implemented in a safe manner and issues that are raised be answered before carrying out the field trial. Only one third of the inputs raised objection due to the uncertainty of the technology and asked that alternative methods to be used. Public, especially the residents of the field trial sites will be engaged in public awareness activities and also be given the opportunity to seek clarification from the IMR before the field trials are implemented.
A complete list of terms and conditions imposed with this approval and further information can be found at the Department of Biosafety’s website (www.biosafety.nre.gov.my). The Board, through the Department of Biosafety, will closely monitor the implementation of the field trial to ensure compliance at every stage of the release.
Department of Biosafety
Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment
15 October 2010