Remember when they used to spray DDT to eradicate mosquitoes because they carried the malaria virus? See In her Own Words: Lorrie Otto and the fight to ban DDT. And then found out the unintended consequences to ecosystems because they had not planned ahead for any consequences? Well, I was pleased to find out that at least some Americans have learned a lesson from this travesty.
It seems one of the Bill and Melinda Gates funded programs is focused on eradicating malaria. By developing genetically modified mosquitoes, they intend to reduce the number of female malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Of the 3,500 known species of mosquitoes, it seems only female Anopheles gambiae (malaria-transmitting mosquitoes} bite humans. So it is their goal to genetically modify this mosquito to suppress future populations.
Oxford University’s Zoology Department has been awarded a $3million grant and will work in collaboration with the University of Ghana, Accra to understand the ecological consequences of reducing or eliminating the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. They will study the Anopheles gambiae throughout their life cycle to determine which competitors might benefit from their demise.
They will also look at how their reduction will affect known predators. Bats, for example, eat mosquitoes, as do many insects.
They will also try to determine which flora will be most affected by the Anopheles gambiae‘s reduction. Mosquitoes feed on nectar and consequently serve as pollinators.
Preliminary findings suggest eradicating this mosquito will have little or no effect on the ecology, but scientists now finally understand they can’t take the environment for granted. This new study should help them come close to planning for the consequences of the demise of the malaria-carrying mosquito ahead of time.