No, GM Mosquitoes Didn’t Start The Zika Outbreak.

By Christie Wilcox | January 31, 2016 9:56 pm

ZIka_conspiracy_theory_cat

A new ridiculous rumor is spreading around the internets. According to conspiracy theorists, the recent outbreak of Zika can be blamed on the British biotech company Oxitec, which some are saying even intentionally caused the disease as a form of ethnic cleansing or population control. The articles all cite a lone Redditor who proposed the connection on January 25th to the Conspiracy subreddit. “There are no biological free lunches,” says one commenter on the idea. “Releasing genetically altered species into the environment could have disastrous consequences” another added. “Maybe that’s what some entities want to happen…?”

For some reason, it’s been one of those months where random nonsense suddenly hits mainstream. Here are the facts: there’s no evidence whatsoever to support this conspiracy theory, or any of the other bizarre, anti-science claims that have popped up in the past few weeks. So let’s stop all of this right here, right now: The Earth is round, not flat (and it’s definitely not hollow). Last year was the hottest year on record, and climate change is really happening (so please just stop, Mr. Cruz). And FFS, genetically modified mosquitoes didn’t start the Zika outbreak. 

Background on Zika

The Zika virus is a flavivirus closely related to notorious pathogens including dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the genus Aedes, especially A. aegypti, which is a known vector for many of Zika’s relatives. Symptoms of the infection appear three to twelve days post bite. Most people are asymptomatic, which means they show no signs of infection. The vast majority of those who do show signs of infection report fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. After a week or less, the symptoms tend to go away on their own. Serious complications have occurred, but they have been extremely rare.

The Zika virus isn’t new. It was first isolated in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda, hence the pathogen’s name. The first human cases were confirmed in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, and by 1968, the virus had spread to Nigeria. But since then, the virus has found its way out of Africa. The first major outbreak occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia for 13 weeks 2007, during which 185 Zika cases were suspected (49 of those were confirmed, with another 59 considered probable). Then, in October 2013, an outbreak began in French Polynesia; around 10,000 cases were reported, less than 100 of which presented with severe neurological or autoimmune complications. One confirmed case of autochthonous transmission occurred in Chile in 2014, which means a person was infected while they were in Chile rather than somewhere else. Cases were also reported that year from several Pacific Islands. The virus was detected in Chile until June 2014, but then it seemed to disappear.

Fast forward to May 2015, when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since then, several thousand suspected cases of the disease and a previously unknown complication—a kind of birth defect known as microcephaly where the baby’s brain is abnormally small—have been reported from Brazil. (It’s important to note that while the connection between the virus and microcephaly is strongly suspected, the link has yet to be conclusively demonstrated.)

Currently, there is no vaccine for Zika, though the recent rise in cases has spurred research efforts. Thus, preventing mosquito bites is the only prophylactic measure available.

The recent spread of the virus has been described as “explosive”; Zika has now been detected in 25 countries and territories. The rising concern over both the number of cases and reports of serious complications has led the most affected areas in Brazil to declare a state of emergency, and on Monday, The World Health Organization’s Director-General will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations. At this emergency meeting, the committee will discuss mitigation strategies and decide whether the organization will officially declare the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

GM to the Rescue

aedes_aegypti

Aedes aegypti: the invasive mosquito in Brazil that carries Zika virus and other awful diseases.
Photo by James Gathany, c/o the CDC

The mosquito to blame for the outbreak—Aedes aegypti—doesn’t belong in the Americas. It’s native to Africa, and was only introduced in the new world when Europeans began to explore the globe. In the 20th century, mosquito control programs nearly eradicated the unwelcome menace from the Americas (largely thanks to the use of the controversial pesticide DDT); as late as the mid 1970s, Brazil and 15 other nations were Aedes aegypti-free. But despite the successes, eradication efforts were halted, allowing the mosquito to regain its lost territory.

The distribution of Aedes aegypti in the Americas in 1970 and 2002.

The distribution of Aedes aegypti in the Americas in 1970 and 2002, from the Centers for Disease Control

Effective control measures are expensive and difficult to maintain, so at the tail end of the 20th century and into the 21st, scientists began to explore creative means of controlling mosquito populations, including the use of genetic modification. Oxitec’s mosquitoes are one of the most exciting technologies to have emerged from this period. Here’s how they work, as I described in a post almost exactly a year ago:

While these mosquitoes are genetically modified, they aren’t “cross-bred with the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria” (that would be an interkingdom ménage à trois!)—and no, they cannot be “used to bite people and essentially make them immune to dengue fever and chikungunya” (they aren’t carrying a vaccine!). The mosquitoes that Oxitec have designed are what scientists call “autocidal” or possess a “dominant lethal genetic system,” which is mostly fancy wording for “they die all by themselves”. The males carry inserted DNA which causes the mosquitoes to depend upon a dietary supplement that is easy to provide in the lab, but not available in nature. When the so-called mutants breed with normal females, all of the offspring require the missing dietary supplement because the suicide genes passed on from the males are genetically dominant. Thus, the offspring die before they can become adults. The idea is, if you release enough such males in an area, then the females won’t have a choice but to mate with them. That will mean there will be few to no successful offspring in the next generation, and the population is effectively controlled.

Male mosquitoes don’t bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. As for fears that GM females will take over: less than 5% of all offspring survive in the laboratory without tetracycline, and as Glen Slade, director of Oxitec’s Brazilian branch notes, those are the best possible conditions for survival. “It is considered unlikely that the survival rate is anywhere near that high in the harsher field conditions since offspring reaching adulthood will have been weakened by the self-limiting gene,” he told me. And contrary to what the conspiracy theorists claim, scientists have shown that tetracycline in the environment doesn’t increase that survival rate. The proponents of this conspiracy theory say that an internal Oxitec memo showed they could survive as much as 15% if fed cat food containing tetracycline, as if it was some secret information being covered up by the company. But that number was reported in their paper on the mosquitoes in 2013, while it was also noted that such a level in was unlikely outside of the lab. Oxitec further went out and tested to see if the environmental levels in Brazil were high enough to raise survival rates, and they weren’t. As Simon Warner, Chief Scientific Officer for Oxitec, explains:

Researchers from the University of Campinas, Brazil, Imperial College London and outside CROs worked together with Oxitec to assess whether exposure to tetracycline in the environment could affect survival levels of OX513A. The highest levels of tetracycline found in mosquito breeding sites or nearby locations were below the minimal level of tetracycline needed to produce any change in survival rates.

What if a bowl of pet food and water was available for OX513A in Brazil? Firstly the bowl would need to be left uninterrupted for a couple of weeks for the OX513A to develop. Most pet owners clean their pet’s food more frequently and health officials advise that no standing containers of water be left for Aedes aegypti to breed in. If the OX513A did develop then as soon as they flew away from the dog bowl they would no longer have access to tetracycline and the self-limiting gene would become active and they would die. It would be impossible for them to continue to breed and become self-sustaining without access to doses of tetracycline.

Brazil, a hotspot for dengue and other such diseases, is one of the countries where Oxitec is testing their mozzies—so far, everywhere that Oxitec’s mosquitoes have been released, the local populations have been suppressed by about 90%.

Genetics Schmenetics (added Feb 2-4)

Oliver Tickell, journalist and editor of the Ecologist, came out with a point by point “hypothesis” seeking to legitimize the conspiracy theory after my initial post. It hinges on his claim that “The promiscuous piggyBac transposon now present in the local Aedes aegypti population takes the opportunity to jump into the Zika virus, probably on numerous occasions.” But we know for a fact this isn’t the case.

First off, it’s not possible. Tickell attempts to make a convoluted connection between the gene insertion system used to add the genetic modification—PiggyBac—and the an increase in virulence in Zika. He cites a dodgy anti-GM website (calling it a “review article”, when it is not a scientific journal article of any kind and has not passed peer review) which claims that PiggyBac moves around all the time. But for the risk assessment to get the permits and approval of the local Brazilian government, Oxitec had to demonstrate that their insertion doesn’t move. They had to demonstrate that the insertion is stable and follows “Mendelian inheritance” (which means it stays in the same place on the chromosome). And they did, to the satisfaction of the regulators—you can read the risk assessment yourself. As Simon Warner, Chief Scientific Officer for Oxitec, explains:

The OX513A mosquito has now been through more than 100 generations and there has never been an instance where the self-limiting gene has behaved as if it were a jumping gene. In human terms, 100 generations is equivalent to a period of time from the early AD years to the present day. Additionally, the self-limiting gene confers a strong selective disadvantage to any insect that carries it, so in the impossible event that the gene did move, there would be no selection that would mean that gene could persist and spread in any population.

But most importantly, it’s not possible for a PiggyBac transposon to move into the Zika genome because PiggyBac is a double-stranded DNA element which only inserts into double-stranded DNA at specific sites (TTAA elements). Zika has no DNA. It’s a single strand RNA virus roughly 10.8kb in size which never goes through a DNA phase when replicating, nor does it enter the cellular nucleus where the mosquito genome is located.

Virologist Kenneth Stedman, who recently published a review on the interaction between viral genes and genomes, explained:

There are a quite small, but not insignificant, number of examples of partial genomes of RNA and single-stranded DNA viruses that have been incorporated into cellular DNA genomes and even fewer examples of a gene from a purely RNA virus which appears to have been acquired by an ssDNA virus (which we originally discovered, see Diemer and Stedman, 2012). However, there are NO examples of the inverse, that is to say purely RNA viruses or ssDNA viruses picking up genes from host genomes.  This is not from want of trying, there have been extensive sequencing efforts on purely RNA viruses, including Zika, and none of these viruses have been found to contain cellular genes.

There are 2 reasons for the unidirectionality, purely RNA viruses, such as the flaviviruses, of which Zika is a member, have RNA genomes that make copies of their genome from RNA, there is no DNA intermediate and they use a special virus-specific RNA polymerase to do this.  The second is that most ssRNA viruses (and flaviviruses in particular) are very constrained in terms of how much RNA they can hold, so they are extremely unlikely to pick up any “extra” genes without causing the virus to be non-viable. On the other hand, cellular genomes are not under such constraints and can acquire RNA and ssDNA virus genes by fascinating mechanisms (some of which are outlined in my Annual Reviews of Virology paper).

To Stedman’s last point: the transposon used by Oxitec is 8.4kb – so almost the same size as the entire Zika virus genome!

But perhaps most to the point, mosquito genes, from genetic modification or otherwise, are not present in the Zika virus in Brazil. The whole genome of the Zika virus is tiny, and it’s easily sequenced—which is exactly what scientists in Brazil have done. That means there was no “jumping DNA” responsible, period. Given the importance of this outbreak, scientists published their sequencing results as openly and as quickly as possible. I’ll say it again: They did not find any transposons or mosquito genes of any kind. They did, however, find some interesting mutational changes which may explain why the outbreak in Brazil seems to be worse than previous outbreaks; the mutational changes may have led to an increase in viral titers.

The family of viruses that Zika belongs to are known to cause birth defects in rare cases, including microcephaly, so an increase in viral titers could be sufficient to explain the sudden uptick in cases, especially when you consider the other confounding factors—factors which, as Oliviera Melo and his colleagues explain, include an increase in reporting (the more we look for a disease, the more we tend to find cases of it), a lack of childhood exposure to the virus in the outbreak areas (if you are infected by Zika as a kid, your body has some resistance or even immunity, so even if someone is exposed when pregnant, they don’t have the same complications), or the rarity of the disease until now (it takes a very large number of cases to detect an increase in very rare complications).

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s dig into the conspiracy theory as it was originally posted. We’ll start with the main argument laid out as evidence: that the Zika outbreak began in the same location at the same time as the first Oxitec release:

Though it’s often said, it’s worth repeating: correlation doesn’t equal causation. If it did, then Nicholas Cage is to blame for people drowning (Why, Nick? WHY?). But even beyond that, there are bigger problems with this supposed correlation: even by those maps, the site of release is on the fringe of the Zika hotspot, not the center of it. Just look at the two overlaid:

The epicenter of the Zika outbreak is clearly on the coast, hundreds of kilometers from the noted location.

The epicenter of the outbreak and the release clearly don’t line up—the epicenter is on the coast rather than inland where the map points. Epidemiologists have tracked the outbreak back to where it started, and now say that the Zika outbreak  “almost certainly”  began in Recife, Brazil, a city almost 400 miles from the nearest Oxitec release location. There are no early cases, however few, from 400 miles inland; the viral outbreak started on the coast and then, as the disease spread, moved inland. If the Oxitec conspiracy theory is correct: how did a virus mutated in Juazeiro get 400 miles away before causing any microcephaly cases?

I see a lot of people gloss over this, saying “well, what if the person infected by the mutant virus immediately drove to Recife” or hypotheses along those lines. Let’s take a moment to think about how unlikely a scenario that is. The theory argues that there was a group of people in Juazeiro with Zika virus and that all of them had no signs whatsoever, because if they had gone to the doctor and had signs, those cases would be reported and we would know that Zika was there. Then one of those people had to be bitten by GM mosquitoes, even though the vast majority of female mosquitoes would be non-GM, while their viremia (the number of viruses in their blood stream) was high enough (but yet not high enough to cause symptoms). Then the virus has to mutate in that mosquito (see above on why that didn’t happen), and then that mosquito has to bite another person and infect them. And THEN that person has to high tail it out of Juazeiro 400 miles to the coast before coming down with the illness, meanwhile, the virus in the Juazeiro population stays hidden with no one getting symptoms until after the outbreak everywhere else spreads. Does that sound like a plausible scenario?

To claim that anything done in Juazeiro caused an outbreak to occur 400 miles away is the same as claiming that whatever is done in Phoenix, AZ is directly responsible for disease outbreaks in Los Angeles, CA. In fact, those two cities are nearly 50 miles closer together than Juazeiro, BA and Recife, PE:

That’s not even mentioning that the location on the map isn’t where the mosquitoes were released. That map points to Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará, which is a solid 300 km away from Juazeiro, Bahia—the actual site of the mosquito trial. That location is even more on the edge of the Zika-affected area:

1: Juazeiro de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juazeiro, the actual location of Oxitec's release trial, about 300 km away.

1: Juazeiro de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juazeiro, the actual location of Oxitec’s release trial, about 300 km away and even further from the outbreak epicenter

The mistake was made initially by the Redditor who proposed the conspiracy theory and has been propagated through lazy journalistic practices by every proponent since. Here’s a quick tip: if you’re basing your conspiracy theory on location coincidence, it’s probably a good idea to actually get the location right.

They’re also wrong about the date. According to the D.C. Clothesline:

By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Brazil, Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%.”

However, GM mosquitoes weren’t first released in Juazeiro, Bahia (let alone Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará) in 2015. Instead, the announcement by Oxitec was of the published results of a trial that occurred in Juazeiro between May 2011 and Sept 2012—a fact which is clearly stated in the methods and results of the paper that Oxitec was so excited to share.

A new control effort employing Oxitec mosquitoes did begin in April 2015, but not in Juazeiro, or any of the northeastern states of Brazil where the disease outbreak is occurring. As another press release from Oxitec states, the 2015 releases of their GM mosquitoes were in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil:

Following approval by Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) for releases throughout the country, Piracicaba’s CECAP/Eldorado district became the world’s first municipality to partner directly with Oxitec and in April 2015 started releasing its self-limiting mosquitoes whose offspring do not survive. By the end of the calendar year, results had already indicated a reduction in wild mosquito larvae by 82%. Oxitec’s efficacy trials across Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands all resulted in a greater than 90% suppression of the wild Ae. aegypti mosquito population–an unprecedented level of control.

Based on the positive results achieved to date, the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project’ in CECAP/Eldorado district covering 5,000 people has been extended for another year. Additionally, Oxitec and Piracicaba have signed a letter of intent to expand the project to an area of 35,000-60,000 residents. This geographic region includes the city’s center and was chosen due to the large flow of people commuting between it and surrounding neighborhoods which may contribute to the spread of infestations and infections.

Piracicaba mosquito control results

 

Piracicaba, for the record, is more than 1300 miles away from the Zika epicenter:

TKTK

1: Juazeiro de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juazeiro, the actual location of Oxitec’s 2011-2012 trial, and 3: Piracicaba, the location where mosquitoes began to be released starting in April 2015, more than 2,000 km from the disease epicenter.

So not only did the conspiracy theorists get the location of the first Brazil release wrong, they either got the date wrong, too, or got the location of the 2015 releases really, really off. Either way, the central argument that the release of GM mosquitoes by Oxitec coincides with the first cases of Zika virus simply doesn’t hold up.

And, if the nails aren’t already in the coffin, then there’s this: when Zika hit French Polynesia in 2014, they also saw a trend of increasing microcephaly. There are no GM mosquitoes in French Polynesia, then or now: so how did they end up with the supposed “mutant” virus that caused birth defects?

And just for those who aren’t convinced Zika has anything to do with this: if the virus isn’t involved, and the mosquitoes are “mutating” people directly (also not possible, as I explained in my post last year on why they are not damaging), then why are there more cases from areas where there aren’t GM mosquitoes than areas where they were released? And where are there microcephaly cases in the Cayman Islands, or other places where these mosquitoes have been tested?

Scientists Speak Out

As this ludicrous conspiracy theory has spread, so, too, has the scientific opposition to it. “Frankly, I’m a little sick of this kind of anti-science platform,” said vector ecologist Tanjim Hossain from the University of Miami, when I asked him what he thought. “This kind of fear mongering is not only irresponsible, but may very well be downright harmful to vulnerable populations from a global health perspective.”

Despite the specious allusions made by proponents of the conspiracy, this is still not Jurassic Park, says Hossain.

“We have a problem where ZIKV is spreading rapidly and is widely suspected of causing serious health issues,” he continued. “How do we solve this problem? An Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approach is key. We need to use all available tools, old and new, to combat the problem. GM mosquitoes are a fairly new tool in our arsenal. The way I see it, they have the potential to quickly reduce a local population of vector mosquitoes to near zero, and thereby can also reduce the risk of disease transmission. This kind of strategy could be particularly useful in a disease outbreak ‘hotspot’ because you could hypothetically stop the disease in its tracks so to speak.”

Other scientists have shared similar sentiments. Alex Perkins, a biological science professor at Notre Dame, told Business Insider that rather than causing the outbreak, GM mosquitoes might be our best chance to fight it. “It could very well be the case that genetically modified mosquitos could end up being one of the most important tools that we have to combat Zika,” Perkins said. “If anything, we should potentially be looking into using these more.”

Brazilian authorities couldn’t be happier with the results so far, and are eager to continue to fight these deadly mosquitoes by any means they can. “The initial project in CECAP/Eldorado district clearly showed that the ‘friendly Aedes aegypti solution’ made a big difference for the inhabitants of the area, helping to protect them from the mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya,” said Pedro Mello, secretary of health in Piracicaba. He notes that during the 2014/2015 dengue season, before the trial there began, there were 133 cases of dengue. “In 2015/2016, after the beginning of the Friendly Aedes aegypti Project, we had only one case.”

It’s long past time to stop villainizing Oxitec’s mosquitoes for crimes they didn’t commit. Claire Bernish, The Daily MFail, Mirror and everyone else who has spread these baseless accusations: I’m talking to you. The original post was in the Conspiracy subreddit—what more of a red flag for “this is wildly inaccurate bullsh*t” do you need? (After all, if this is a legit source, where are your reports on the new hidden messages in the $100 bill? or why the Illuminati wants people to believe in aliens?). It’s well known that large-scale conspiracy theories are mathematically challenged. Don’t just post whatever crap is spewed on the internet because you know it’ll get you a few clicks. It’s dishonest, dangerous, and, frankly, deplorable to treat nonsense as possible truth just to prey upon your audience’s very real fears of an emerging disease. You, with your complete lack of integrity, are maggots feeding on the decay of modern journalism, and I mean that with no disrespect to maggots.

 

 

Update February 2, 2016 has been moved into the text for flow and streamlining on February 4. 

My statement about my language choice: Some have suggested that calling those who have uncritically spread the conspiracy theory “maggots” was inappropriate. It was more of a metaphor than name-calling, but I will concede: it was uncalled for to insult fly larvae in such a manner. I apologize to young dipterans everywhere.

ADVERTISEMENT
  • mem_somerville

    I’m so tired of the blame for this going to scientists’ failure to communicate. There has been excellent outreach in Brazil, with wide reaching strategies.

    The problem is toxic misinformers get platforms to spread nonsense. Of course the Conspiracy subreddit is a stupid place to get your information. But there’s another level of supposedly legit folks–the professional GMO haters–that spread the same nonsense yet get quoted all the time.

    • kfunk937

      Ditto wrt antivaxxers. Not that their CT Venn diagram doesn’t overlap considerably. Geesh.

      • Dan Keown

        So explain why tetanus rates amongst unvaccinated are the same as vaccinated then…

        • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

          legitimate citation, please.

          • Dan Keown

            Not that it’s going to change your ‘science hive-mind but is the UK government good enough for you? https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/429677/hpr1815_ttns.pdf

            and before you comment do some research, cant be bothered to reply unless its at least half-intelligent.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with this report. It doesn’t seem to make any case for you – not that tetanus vaccines are relevant to this discussion anyway.

            ” Among the five cases born prior to 1961; one was partially immunised having received four doses of vaccine, two were known to be unimmunised. No vaccination history was available for the remaining two cases, however, given their age (75+ years old) they were unlikely to have been immunised.”

          • Tantalus

            The linked report doesn’t give rates. It only gives case numbers for one year, which are too small to construct statistically significant rates, even if we knew the total vaccinated and unvaccinated population numbers – which we don’t.

          • Emkay

            that’s it..’half intelligencia’ a virus developed in Northern Mongolia

          • Alice Cheshire

            What do you read in this that says vaccines don’t work? With only 7 cases, it is scientifically impossible to draw any conclusions. Two were reported fully immunized and 1 partially, two were not and two were assumed to be not. So 2/7 fully vaccinated got tetanus, 1/7 partially vaccinated, 2/7 not vaccinated and 2/7 presumed not vaccinated. Approximately 2/3 of the sample was not vaccinated or fully vaccinated. That’s considerably over half and half.

            Plus, you cannot actually judge the efficacy of a vaccine by looking at individuals who contracted a disease for which there is a vaccine. It is well understood that no vaccine is 100% effective. In spite of your contention to the contrary, the only way to know if a vaccine is effective is to look at the entire population and see if the disease decreases. Yes, it could be due to better wound hygiene, better nutrition, etc. Or it might not be. The only purely scientific way to prove this is to vaccinate one group, not another, matching health and nutrition, sex, ages, etc. Then infect the people with the tetanus bacteria, both groups. Of course this is VERY unethical and cannot be done. Which allows the anti-vax crowd to continue to make claims that have no basis, based on the reality that scientific “proof” would be obtained only by violating ethics. A clever ruse, and a clear indication why things like Zika can be sold as an hysterical health event. Too many people don’t understand and don’t care about science when it comes to their beloved beliefs.

          • Dan Keown

            here’s the pertinent part

            ‘Among the two cases (of tetanus) born after 1961, one was fully immunised having received five dosesof tetanus-containing vaccine and one was age appropriately immunised having received
            four doses of vaccine.’

            Funny, I didnt know Tetanus had herd immunity…

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            There is no application of herd immunity for tetanus, as it is not transmitted from person-to-person.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            You left a part out of your quote. Let me help you out:

            Among the five cases born prior to 1961; one was partially immunised having received four doses of vaccine, two were known to be unimmunised. No vaccination history was available for the remaining two cases, however, given their age (75+ years old) they were unlikely to have been immunised.

          • Dan Keown

            Sorry mate, its not even half intelligent. However, credit due, you can read so give you a helping hand; You need to look at historic rates.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            Gotta be honest, just not interested. If you get a puncture wound, feel free to take your chances. Idgaf. Tetanus is not contagious, so it has no effect on me if you “choose” to get it. Good luck.

          • Dan Keown

            A great example of the ‘science’ hive mind in action. Point proven

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            Whatever. More an example of you trying to discuss something off-topic and irrelevant to the subject. Go find a discussion on the benefits of tetanus to the immune system if you want to discuss that.

            Science hive mind? Is that your inappropriately-applied mot du jour?

          • Emkay

            I had some ‘soup du jour’ once at a restaurant, it’s so good, they have it every day..

          • Alice Cheshire

            Only IF he pays 100% of the cost himself. Why should I pay for his lack of belief? If he willing to that, or does he not really believe the nonsense he’s spouting? Maybe he’s willing to die but not fork out the cash?

        • Tantalus

          Is this the principle anti-vax argument or is this a distraction?
          I mean, I’d rather anti-vaxers try to explain why autism rates are the same in the vaccinated as unvaccinated. But even that doesn’t matter! A person is going to oppose vaccination for their kids if they don’t trust it, or if they think it will harm them.
          If you are an anti-vaxxer why don’t you trust vaccines? And what evidence could I present that would convince you of their trustworthiness?
          (I’m guessing there isn’t any evidence I could present that would convince you. Which isn’t a problem, but it means debate is pointless).

    • Gordon Ingram

      Professional – ha! Who pays us for it? 😛

      • mem_somerville

        Who funds The Ecologist? GMWatch? GeneWatch? I-SIS?

        • Gordon Ingram

          I doubt my own funders would be too impressed that I am currently keyboard-warring on Twitter and science blogs instead of doing what I am paid to do and preparing for my class this afternoon. Lol.

          • mem_somerville

            I never said you were a professional GMO hater. You did.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well, I have been more impressed with the quality of the professional GMO-haters arguments. They’re not the ones making arguments from authority all the time.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            If youre referencing GE crops in general citing the global scientific consensus is not an argument from authority.

          • Gordon Ingram

            See my other comment below. We are talking about mosquitos not crops.

          • JuHoansi

            Except there is no global scientific consensus.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Well somebody better get the AAAS, the NAS, the WHO, 27 national academies of Europe, …

            Actually since over 240 scientific groups have affirmed the consensus, I’ll just link to that list.

            http://www.siquierotransgenicos.cl/2015/06/13/more-than-240-organizations-and-scientific-institutions-support-the-safety-of-gm-crops/

            This was compiled by a Latin American non profit.

            Perhaps you can reach out to all those groups and convince them of their error. But seeing as how their opinions were formed based on the collective body of evidence in the scientific literature you might have some difficulty.

          • Paulo Andrade

            Consensus is not the same as unanimity. Isolated voices may be wrong or may have an entirely new approach or proposal to a certain question, but they are useful just as a “living” contradictory position, not as an argument to dismiss the consensus as non-existent. The scientific consensus says GMOs (those studied and approved by the regulatory agencies around the world), some isolated voices may say the opposite, this is the commonest situatin in science.

          • mem_somerville

            Wait, you found arguments that suited your philosophy impressive? Despite having no grasp of the underlying science or the claims?

            When you said you teach a course on conspiracy theory–did you mean that it’s a “how to” course?

            I totally misunderstood that.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Quality of argumentation is completely separate from the content of what is argued. Have you never graded student essays? Or done a peer review for a journal? I’d hate to have you as a peer reviewer. I could have the most watertight evidence and beautifully constructed argument, but if you didn’t like the conclusions (demonstrating negative health effects of GMOs, for example) I reckon you’d never let it in.

          • mem_somerville

            Yeah, you would hate to have me as a reviewer. Because you would be writing outside your field. And the point of peer review is that people familiar with the field make sure the ideas are sound.

            It would probably be a bad day for you when you got my comments.

          • Gordon Ingram

            “And the point of peer review is that people familiar with the field make sure the ideas are sound.”
            Really. I thought the point of peer review was to make sure that the methods used, and the results and conclusions drawn from them, were sound. Kind of walked right into that one, didn’t you?

          • mem_somerville

            Walked right into the same thing? The methods, results, and conclusions are all the ideas. Maybe we are having a language issue here. I have a feeling you use English differently.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Whoooosh

          • Gordon Ingram

            And as I asked you before, please stop misusing the word “conspiracy”. No-one I have cited is alleging a conspiracy. Just plain old sloppy practice on the part of Oxitec (and regulators).

          • mem_somerville

            Stop attempting to control my language. I know exactly what I’m talking about. And what I’m looking at. Both of them are you. Conspiracy theorists are people with unfounded claims hooked together with fictions that appeal to them. Fictions that fit their world view.

          • Gordon Ingram

            You really have a lot of anger, don’t you?

          • mem_somerville

            Says the guy who appeared in my twitter feed all angry. You are too precious for words.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Oh. I wasn’t feeling angry and didn’t realise I appeared angry. That’s something for me to work on I guess.

          • hyperzombie

            “They’re not the ones making arguments from authority all the time.”
            Yea,cause it is always best to believe the folks that have no idea what they’re talking about.
            Those freaking evolutionary biologists talking about evolution and Climate scientists talking about Climate And crap, it is far better to cite the local cashier at the 711.

          • ostracion

            When people whine about actually going to experts for information on things they’ve been specifically trained to know every in and out of, I’m often reminded of a famous Isaac Asimov quote from a column he wrote way back in 1980:

            “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

            I mean, that really gets at the heart of it. Every Jane and Joe Schmo certainly has an opinion, but hopefully, we don’t actually listen to it unless they actually know what they are talking about. It’s not an argument from authority when the Venn diagram of the conclusions from “current evidence-driven consensus” and “trained experts in the field” is a freaking circle.

          • Gordon Ingram

            But you don’t think you have some kind of responsibility to try to change their opinion, though? If you know the truth and they don’t? My point is that arguments from authority are not a good way to do this (see more in my reflections post below).

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Arguments from authority can and do work. They worked for me. I actually started out on the anti-GM side. I changed my mind after seeking out authoritative sources.

            We all use arguments from authority to make decisions every day of our lives. That’s why most folk with a broken leg go see the doctor instead of the florist or hairdresser. A correctly applied AFA is logically valid.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Mmm there has to be a mix I think. You need to argue with both authority and facts. (This is where the social sciences went wrong for so many decades, because they relied so much on the theoretical pronouncements of Big Names such as Freud, Jung, Derrida, Foucault…, and ignored empirical facts. Thankfully the situation is now changing and they are finally becoming “proper” sciences.)

            It’s no good just saying, “This is right because the Scientific Consensus(TM) says it is,” or “This is wrong because it was originally posted on Reddit.” In political terms, of course that energizes the base, but I seriously doubt it wins over many swing voters. On the other hand, the guy who tweeted me the peer-reviewed article about transposon stability had exactly the right idea. I was immediately grateful for his generosity with his time and thinking effort, having that day encountered so many people who were only interested in bashing the other tribe.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Gordon, if your aim on Disqus is to change people’s mind you will not have a happy time. I have no expectation of changing anyone’s mind.

            ps. My background is in the social sciences and I agree with you. I have no time at all for Freud and Jung and very little for Derrida and Foucault. I’m more of a moderate idiosyncratic post-Marxist 😉

          • Gordon Ingram

            That’s interesting. I think perhaps my formation in the social sciences has made me more suspicious of arguments from authority than many “hard” scientists are. They’re more used to their authorities being right!

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Arguments from authority only work for me in the hard sciences. I do not accept arguments from authority in the social scientists in part because they subject matter is much more complicated and secondly because social scientists do not and cannot really be expected to separate their own beliefs and values from their work.

            My view on the hard sciences is that I should provisionally accept as fact any long held consensus.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I think a lot of people would take a similar approach. One problem with maintaining a rigid dichotomy though would be when you get into things like effects on human health. Here beliefs and values also come into it and you cannot do “hard” sciences while ignoring the social sciences. Many papers in top medical journals, for example, are essentially social science studies, either wholly or partially. Mixed methods (mixing qualitative and quantitative analysis) are very common in medicine. Yet qualitative analysis of human attitudes or behavior is not normally seen as a “hard” scientific method.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I agree there is a grey area rather than a rigid dichotomy. This is very noticeable in rancorous debates about diet and health. Food seems to make folk highly emotional. Its a primal thing I guess.

          • JuHoansi

            Strawman. That’s not what Gordon is saying. Thanks for playing. (btw, your username is very apropos).

          • Gordon Ingram

            Fine but you know what gets my goat? This assumption that if you are anti-GM you are also anti-science. I know you haven’t stated it explicitly but it’s there in the background, with your use of the word “crank”. I am very pro-science and also very anti-GM. It is possible, you know.

          • cable1977

            “I am very pro-science and also very anti-GM. It is possible, you know.”

            It’s funny, all the anti-vaxxers and climate change denialists say the exact same thing. Funny though, whenever one criticizes the “science” they cite, these pro-science people then resort to all sorts of logical fallacies to try to avoid addressing the criticisms of some awful science (i.e. Seralini).

          • Gordon Ingram

            The difference is, they’re lying. I’m telling the truth. Lol.
            (Or if you believe that I’m essentially the same as an anti-vaxxer or climate change denialist, let me know when you find a logical fallacy that I’ve made here!)

          • cable1977

            “Or if you believe that I’m essentially the same as an anti-vaxxer or climate change denialist, let me know when you find a logical fallacy that I’ve made here!”

            Actually, since you were arguing that it is a false generalization that those opposed to GMOs are anti-science, your own comments are actually irrelevant, unless the sample size that the generalization is based on is exceedingly small. What counts is the overall impression from numerous commenters and whether the assumptions drawn from those observations are generally accurate. The question is whether the generalization in reasonable or not, but any generalization does not require that every instance to be true for the generalization to be accurate. Perhaps you aren’t, but your comments are really scientific enough to make any such judgement.

            In the land of internet comment boards, I would contend that it is a reasonable assertion that those who are against GMOs are anti-science.

            P.S. And yes, I would lump the majority of anti-GMO folks into the same category of science denialism as climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers, not to mention the evolution deniers.

          • Gordon Ingram

            A lot of words to make quite a simple point. And it doesn’t really address *my* point, which is that someone who is anti-GM is *not necessarily* anti-science. Whether there’s a correlation between the two is an empirical question, which you are here addressing with personal impression, not with a scientific study.

          • cable1977

            Yes, and someone who’s a Donald Trump supporter is *not necessarily* a racist, but it’s a good bet to make.

            “Whether there’s a correlation between the two is an empirical question, which you are here addressing with personal impression, not with a scientific study.”

            I never said it was a scientific study, but for the purposes of generalization, my personal impression works just fine. If you would like to provide some evidence to me that my generalization is incorrect, I’m certainly happy to look at it, but given that the scientific consensus is that GMOs are “generally safe”, I don’t consider it unreasonable to generalize that the anti-GMO position is, in general, anti-science. Not to mention that I saw that you had written elsewhere that your opposition to GMOs is not only based in science and that, if they could be proven 100% safe, you still would oppose them, so clearly my criticisms are not entirely off base.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Your generalization is incorrect in my case (and I suspect, in the case of many of the nine people who liked my original comment). The evidence is my own stated views. Given that my original comment was about there not being a *necessary* connection between being anti-GM and anti-science, your subsequent statements in response to it have been irrelevant.

          • cable1977

            “Your generalization is incorrect in my case”

            I’m not sure I agree that it is entirely incorrect, as I have noted above that you had written elsewhere that your opposition to GMOs is not only based in science and that, if they could be proven 100% safe, you still would oppose them.

            “and I suspect, in the case of many of the nine people who liked my original comment”

            Well, there are 11 people who agreed with my comment, so if you’d like to play the argument from popularity card, clearly the generalization is accepted by more people than oppose it.

            “Given that my original comment was about there not being a *necessary* connection between being anti-GM and anti-science, your subsequent statements in response to it have been irrelevant.”

            Not irrelevant, just simply pointing out that there is a reasonable generalization that can be made and that your complaints are comparable to others who opposed to scientific consensus yet don’t consider themselves anti-science (climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, etc).

          • Gordon Ingram

            Again, the fact that two more people liked your comment than mine is irrelevant to my point that a substantial number of people (though admittedly, not a majority of either group) probably self-identify as anti-GM but pro-science. I don’t think it is wise to ignore the existence of that group. You could always claim that their self-identification as “pro-science” is incorrect, but then you would need to give a definition of “pro-science”, which you notably haven’t done.

            However I am prepared to ignore the irrelevance of your comments and argue with you a bit (I am always prepared to argue with people who seem as fundamentally assured of their own rightness as you do :P).

            I think you are confusing “assuming” with “suspecting”, and absolute statements with generalizations. Notice the difference in these two statements:

            I suspect that most Trump supporters are racists.
            I assume that all Trump supporters are racists.

            The first statement is a reasonable hypothesis which can be confirmed or denied on a case-by-case basis by looking at the evidence of individual Trump supporters’ attitudes. This is what good scientists do.

            The second statement is an over-generalized, obviously incorrect assumption, which someone has probably made because they are prejudiced against Trump supporters and too lazy to think about the complex ideologies of all the various types of people who support him.
            That is what bad scientists do.

            In the context of the claim that anti-GM people are anti-science, I was arguing with the second type of statement, not the first. Plenty of people said things like “Not that the CT Venn diagram [of anti-GM people and antivaxxers] doesn’t overlap considerably.” I didn’t argue with them. It is perfectly fine with me if you want to have a suspicion that anti-GM people are anti-science, until proven otherwise in individual cases. That seems perfectly reasonable. But as things stand, you seem to be jumping back and forth between arguing that it doesn’t matter if a minority of anti-GM people are pro-science (what proportion would matter? 10%? 20? 30?) and arguing that we’re not actually, *really* pro-science anyway.

            So let’s get to the meat of this debate-within-a-debate: give me your definition of “pro-science” and “anti-science”, and I am >90% sure that I will be able to show that I meet the former definition and not the latter.

          • cable1977

            “a substantial number of people (though admittedly, not a majority of either group) probably self-identify as anti-GM but pro-science.”

            And I imagine many anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers would also self-identify as pro-“their position”, but not anti-science.

            “(I am always prepared to argue with people who seem as fundamentally assured of their own rightness as you do :P).”

            Pot, meet kettle.

            “I think you are confusing “assuming” with “suspecting”, and absolute statements with generalizations. ”

            Not really. The only absolute statement I made was that all anti-vaxxers/climate change deniers make the same claim that you do, that they are pro-science but anti-whatever. No one actually claims to be anti-science, even though I would argue that the vast majority who make your original claim to me actually are. I never claimed that all anti-GMO folks are anti-science, but I said that it was a good bet, just as it is a good bet that Donald Trump supporters are racist.

            The question is whether its a reasonable assumption and then the question is what to do with that assumption. You may think it improper to make assumptions and then look for evidence to have those assumptions proven wrong. I disagree.

            “That is what bad scientists do.”

            Good scientists make assumptions all the time and proceed forward based on those assumptions. When I dose an animal via a certain route, I assume certain things are going to occur, even if I’ve never dosed that particular compound before and those assumptions dictate what readouts or timepoints I might evaluate. Having assumptions doesn’t make one a bad scientist, what makes one a bad scientist is failing to change those beliefs once contrary evidence is provided.

            “give me your definition of “pro-science” and “anti-science”, and I am >90% sure that I will be able to show that I meet the former definition and not the latter.”

            Pro-science – Accepting the scientific consensus formed across experts in a particular field or, if you disagree with the consensus, providing clear and strong data supporting your position rather than engaging in fallacious reasoning, ad hominem attacks, etc. In addition, if you cannot defend the quality of the science you produce in support of your beliefs, then your disagreement with the scientific consensus is not at all compelling or relevant to a debate among experts. As an example of a clear anti-science comment, I would refer you to JuHoansi above who replied to my comments about Seralini.

            I don’t particularly care whether YOU might fit the definition. That’s irrelevant to my initial point, which was that no one actually claims to be anti-science, even if they are clearly so.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Again, you’re contradicting yourself. Halfway down your meandering comment you claim that a good scientist makes assumptions and then looks for evidence to prove those assumptions wrong. But at the end you claim that the fact that I was pro-science, but anti-GM, is irrelevant to your assumption that people who are anti-GM are generally anti-science. (How many counter-examples would you need for it to be relevant, hmmm?)
            I submit that what is *actually* irrelevant here is your point that anti-vaxers and climate change deniers claim that they are not anti-science. My original point was that it is not logically possible to be a climate change denier and pro-science, but that it is perfectly possible to be anti-GM and pro-science, because rejecting GMOs does not necessarily mean rejecting any scientific facts, the way that climate change denial does.

          • Gordon Ingram

            … Any more than rejecting vivisection, nuclear weapons, or nuclear power means rejecting any scientific facts. (Although from the cut of your jib, you probably think that people who are against nuclear power are anti-science as well…)

          • Pogo333

            The anti/pro-science tags are really rather meaningless in such discussions. In reality, very few people are privy to the full spectrum of scientific information on any issue and must build opinions on that set of information to which they are accessible. The bigger issue is critical thinking and questioning. But even here it can be challenging if we lack a certain foundation of information to know which questions to ask, how to ask them, and how to vet the answers.

            And therein lies the conundrum. Scientific information is being pumped out faster than ever before, is more easily accessible than ever before, and within any discipline is moving faster than ever before. It is difficult for specialists in any given field to keep up, let alone lay people who have lives to lead outside of scientific research. Scientists in any given area typically have flawed or completely wrong ideas about other aspects of science. Is it because they are anti-science? No. They simply lack the fuller breadth of information they need to frame the right questions and get the right answers. And it is the same with the general public, but perhaps moreso because they don’t have numerous hours each week to devote to studying the science, or access to extensive libraries of online journals.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well I completely agree with that. Thank you for such a balanced contribution!

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Gordon, all the most clearly articulated anti-GMO arguments I have seen to date are rightfully considered anti-science because, among other things,

            (a) they invoke the naturalistic fallacy (ie. natural = good, safe, benign vs artificial = bad, risky, malign) and

            (b) they invoke such a rigid and strong version of the Precautionary Principle that were it enforced across the board throughout human history, no scientific endeavour (or technological advancement or social change) would ever be possible.

            You have said on several occasions that you have a deep seated philosophical and ethical objection to GMO. Can you please elucidate your theory. If you wish you can ask website like the Genetic Literacy Project to publish it. While that site is mainly pro-GM, they are open to posting anti-GM material to stimulate debate and they are solicitous of freelance material. In fact they published a submission I made a few weeks ago: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/01/06/permaculture-ecological-future-unsustainable-hobby-ex-urban-agroecological-activists/

            I would genuinely love to see your argument.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I have written in a comment to another poster that I don’t think the comments in someone else’s science blog are the best place for a detailed discussion of my own ethics. The Genetic Literacy Project could be a better place though, I will look into it. Thanks for posting the link.
            Regarding the naturalistic fallacy, you should be aware that some philosophers disagree that it is a fallacy (I personally think that G. E. Moore was doing his own version of insulting labelling there, and unfortunately the label has stuck!) and I think many more would disagree that Moore’s arguments removed all possibility of a naturalistic ethics. I really like McInerny’s argument against the is/ought distinction (unashamedly plucked from Wikipedia!):

            “Ralph McInerny suggests that “ought” is already bound up in “is”, in so
            far as the very nature of things have ends/goals within them. For
            example, a clock is a device used to keep time. When one understands the
            function of a clock, then a standard of evaluation is implicit in the
            very description of the clock, i.e., because it “is” a clock, it “ought”
            to keep the time. Thus, if one cannot pick a good clock from a bad
            clock, then one does not really know what a clock is. In like manner, if
            one cannot determine good human action from bad, then one does not
            really know what the human person is.”

            You might want to reflect on how you would counter that argument (assuming you are not convinced by it!). But as I said, I would rather discuss it on somewhere like the GLP. If I never manage to post there, I am happy for you to tweet or email me. You can easily find me on Google!

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I hadn’t heard of Ralph McInerny before but when I read your quote of him I assumed he was a Catholic natural law theorist. And sure enough, it turns out that Ralph McInerny is a Catholic reactionary who argues against homosexuality, contraception, masturbation and other unnatural perversions against nature in the Thomas Aquinas tradition. http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/edi/edi_02apostolatehomo.html

            How much philosophy have you read? Are you aware of the religious antecedents of the arguments you favour? If you do not mind me asking, are you a natural law Catholic?

          • Gordon Ingram

            I don’t know what a natural law Catholic is. Would it invalidate my arguments if I was one?
            I’d never heard of Ralph McInerny before. I liked his particular argument here, and I still like it. (I notice you haven’t bothered responding to it.) I’m sure he makes a lot of bad arguments too. Everyone does.
            How is it relevant if he is against masturbation and homosexuality, and a political conservative? Is that “anti-science” in your book too? Tell that to the millions of politically conservative scientists.

            You really can’t get away from these arguments from authority, can you? Bash, bash, bash those outgroups!

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Gordon, since your knowledge base in ethical philosophy including natural law theory appears to be zero, it isn’t really possible for us to have a constructive conversation about it in blog comments. I can see no point in trying to explain to you how a person is not the same as a clock. You either get it or you don’t.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Haha it must be really easy to be you – I wish I could argue like that. “You either get it or you don’t. I rest my case!”

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Well, a proper answer would require at least a 1,000 word essay with each and every term defined since you apparently have absolutely no knowledge of ethical philosophy. That time could be better spent binge-watching Vikings, which I shall now do. Cheerio 😉

          • Gordon Ingram

            Ah yes, the good old “We don’t have time to put you through grad school” argument ((C) mem_somerville). Very persuasive! But I forgot, you’re not trying to persuade anyone here :)

          • Gordon Ingram

            And BTW I am not trying to be evasive here. I am a practising Catholic – though more in the Latin American “liberation theology” mould. I believe in God. Is that anti-scientific too?!

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            That is a big question, Gordon. As you are a Catholic and an educated man, I’m amazed that you’ve never heard of natural law given it is front and centre in Catholic theology. Have you heard of an old guy called the Pope? Have you read anything that he has written? In what tradition is he writing? Thomas Aquinas ring a bell…?

          • Gordon Ingram

            I only recently became a Catholic (though I was baptized as one). Before that, I steered very clear of religion, which explains my theological naivety haha.
            But come on, this is seriously offtopic. I’ve said you can email me if you want a one to one debate. Or do you prefer showing off…?

          • Gordon Ingram

            I should add that I am currently reevaluating my ethical position on GMOs, mostly due to my contact with people here (contact is a powerful thing, at least for people like me who are quite absorptive of other people’s ideas) and to learning that HGT is much more common in nature than I had realized.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Good to hear, Gordon. There is no shame in changing one’s mind. Fifteen years ago I was active in the Australian Greens and a member of various conservation groups. I have moved a long way since then although I still consider myself an environmentalist. In fact I spend much of my spare time planting native trees and bushes and putting up nesting boxes on my farm and elsewhere as a volunteer.

            Environmentalism and science are natural allies in my view. I’m depressed at how environmentalism in recent decades has been hijacked by the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I disagree with your definition of anti-science. You appear to confusing religion (indisputable facts) with science (disputable facts).

            You say:

            it is not logically possible to be a climate change denier and pro-science, but that it is perfectly possible to be anti-GM and pro-science, because rejecting GMOs does not necessarily mean rejecting any scientific facts, the way that climate change denial does.

            What you are saying is that science is built on a body of facts that cannot be disputed. In truth, facts in science are provisional and every year new provisional facts replace old provisional facts (as an aside, the IPCC acknowledge doubt, which is why they give probability ratings for their fact statements instead of chiseling them on stone tablets).

            Nobel Prizes are won when new provisional facts replace the old. A good example is Dan Shechtman, who won a Nobel Prize when he overturned the old “fact” that quasichrystals are a physical impossibility.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I was happy to leave the final word on this topic to pogo333, who pointed out in an excellent comment that discussions of who is “pro-science” or “anti-science” are rarely productive. What they typically represent is out-group labels being slung around as insults against scientists from a different sub-group who stray outside their own area of expertise. Much the same happens actually when “hard” scientists comment on the social sciences, and are accused of being “reductionist”:
            Re your specific point, yes I probably should have expanded “rejected” to read “rejected without good scientific evidence”. I think that addresses your objection.

          • YosemiteDesigns

            Lots of research, but your bias still clearly shines through.

          • JuHoansi

            How is Seralini “awful science”?

          • cable1977

            Seralini’s GMO paper that is often touted by anti-GMO advocates is flawed on numerous levels:

            1. No statistical analysis.

            2. Number of rats used was too small to draw conclusions from.

            3. Rat breed is highly prone to cancer, yet the non-GMO treated rats developed far less cancers than they actually should have (i.e. the control wasn’t a valid control).

            4. Lack of publication of images of control rats compared to GMO treated rats.

            5. Ethical concerns about the treatment of the rodents (i.e. allowing the tumors to grow far beyond what would be considered humane/ethical).

            6. Effects demonstrate no dose response.

            7. Controls were inadequate (i.e. a single control group cannot be used for for different GMO feeds that have different percentages of corn).

            8. Lack of consistent effects across different treatment groups (i.e. for some tumor types, the treatment actually reduced the number of those tumors – yet the authors weren’t about to claim that GMO corn cures cancer).

            It’s a garbage study that lacked the most basic level of scientific rigor that would be expected of a freshman college student, let alone someone who was involved in scientific research for a long time. The conclusions drawn by the authors are not at all supported by the data found within the paper (hence why it was retracted and republished in a low impact pay-for-play journal).

          • JuHoansi

            More political bullshit.
            1. There was statistical analysis. You just didn’t like it.
            2. Number of rats conformed to OECD guidelines for chronic toxicity studies.
            3. Rat breed (SD) is standard breed used in all such feeding studies and in conformity with OECD guidelines.
            4. Publication decisions belong to the Journal the paper is being published in.
            5. Growth of tumors met OECD guidelines for ethical treatment of laboratory animals. If you think Seralini’s rat tumors were big, you should see the tumors on rats in some obesity studies.
            6. This is disputable.
            7. Doesn’t matter since all 10 rats per group were analyzed. Thus no selection bias introduced.
            8. The study was a chronic toxicity study, not a carcinogenic study. If tumors occur, they are supposed to be reported, as per OECD guidelines, which Seralini did.

            The paper was retracted for political reasons, after mounting pressure from biotech ‘scientists’, and after a former Monsanto employee was appointed to review the findings. Even the editor of the FCT Journal (Wallace Hayes) admitted there was no evidence of scientific fraud or poor practice, and thus no scientific reason for the retraction.

          • cable1977

            More bullshit from a Seralini sycophant who doesn’t have any actual scientific knowledge, but does a good job of regurgitating Seralini’s talking points.

            1. There was no statistical analysis on tumor incidence, the histology figures, or mortality, despite the fact that Seralini makes clear claims about there being “trends”. So, any conclusions made about those factors are unwarranted, especially since many public statements were made regarding cancer risk. The only data in the paper that has any statistical analysis is figure 3 and table 3, but that certainly isn’t the only data being used to draw the conclusions from. In addition, multiple statisticians have disagreed with Seralini’s use of the OPLS-DA, especially when he is only showing data from 1 specific timepoint, despite having collected blood from 10 different timepoints.

            2. The number of rats confirm to guidelines for biochemical and hematological measurements, so again, that only leaves figure 3 and table 3 as viable data in the paper for assessment of conclusions.

            3. The issue is not the breed, but rather using the breed for such an extended period of time. Because of the high tumor load found in SD rats when they get old, this would not be an appropriate strain for this study design.

            4. Absolute garbage and a pathetic shirking of scientific responsibility. Seralini wrote the paper and he is responsible for including (or not including) any particular piece of information. Unless you have some evidence that he provided the control images, but the journal denied him the ability to publish them, your argument is garbage and simply demonstrates how biased and anti-science you are.

            5. The study was not powered to detect either the tumor incidence or mortality, only the biochemical or hematological changes, so there was no ethical reason to subject the rats to such stress to measure tumor size. Seralini even notes that it was not a carcinogenicity study, so then why would the animals be kept alive once they developed significant tumor burdens?

            6. No, it isn’t disputable at all. The majority of effects noted demonstrate no tumor response.

            7. Of course using the proper controls matters. How do you know there was no selection bias if there weren’t proper controls for each condition tested?

            8. Then why are claims made and data shown for anything other than table 3 and figure 3, the only toxicity measurements that have any statistical validity whatsoever?

            The paper was retracted because it’s garbage. Folks like yourself are only interested in conflicts of interest when you can use them to impugn people you can’t actually intelligently debate. You don’t care about Seralini’s conflicts of interest or his biases.

            “Even the editor of the FCT Journal (Wallace Hayes) admitted there was no evidence of scientific fraud or poor practice, and thus no scientific reason for the retraction.”

            So, you believe some of his claims, but not others? Sounds like a bit of cherry picking to me, but who expects anything less from a science denialist.

            In addition, Hayes never stated there was no “poor practice”, he stated there was no misconduct, something I completely agree with. Seralini didn’t falsify any data, he’s just a really bad scientist.

          • Emkay

            y’all are taking this crap way too seriously…

          • Jm dedelreu

            All theses critics are lobby false statements, please read the many Seralini papers, at the place of eating junk food GMO for herbicides and pesticides, poisons, that increase fast your belly, obese, gives you diabete, and with many drugs to treat each day up to your premature death, you multiply the benefits of the same chemical firms, like more than 1/3 of americans .

          • cable1977

            Good lord, that’s not even an actual sentence.

          • hyperzombie

            “I am very pro-science and also very anti-GM. It is possible, you know.”

            Nope,You cant be both.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I really hope you’re being ironic…

          • hyperzombie

            Nope, you cant be “Very Pro Science” and then pick and choose what science you believe in, that is not the way it works.
            Can I say that I am Pro science yet deny evolution, Climate change, magnetism (it is caused by moon spirits), and so forth?

          • Gordon Ingram

            Being anti-GM is primarily an ethical position. It’s like being anti-vivisectionist but pro-science. Qualitatively different from not believing in scientific facts such as global warming or evolution. Even if all GMOs could be proved to be 100% risk-free (which is of course impossible) I would still be against them. I think pro-GM people don’t get that sometimes, they think the opposition is all about spurious safety fears or a vague feeling of disgust.

          • dachshundsrule

            Rather like approving of cars, but being against drinking and driving? I don’t see a problem with your position, myself.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Mmm I think that would be more like being in favor of properly regulated GM, but not poorly regulated GM. (Of course, no-one *admits* to being in favor of poorly regulated GM, but it’s interesting that not one single pro-GM person in this discussion has levelled the slightest criticism at Oxitec, even though they failed to publish risk assessments for the trials in advance, as EU biotech companies are required to even when operating outside the EU.)

            My position is more like being generally anti-car and not driving one oneself, but accepting that they fulfil an important function for millions of people. (Which coincidentally is actually my position on cars at the moment – though I did drive for years and am planning to go back to it in the future.)

          • Pogo333

            Oxitec has been very open about their data for some time after behaving rather stupidly in some early trials. They have published their data extensively in peer-reviewed journals and have been heavily scrutinized and vetted in the scientific community. Their trials in Brazil were very carefully evaluated before any releases began. That was not the case for a couple of earlier releases elsewhere, and they caught immense justifiable flak for those.

            I’m still on the fence about the feasibility of what they are doing on a large scale, but I’m quite confident in the safety of the method. A very similar method was used to eradicate screwworm flies from the US, although the process was much less precise then. The outcome was great, though. If the Oxitec system does work, then this will create great opportunities to address very serious mosquito-borne diseases, which will go a long way towards building developing nations.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Thanks for criticizing Oxitec’s earlier mistakes, at least. I hope other people can see the importance of that, if GM technology is to win people’s hearts and minds.

          • Pogo333

            The one great advantage Oxitec has over Monsanto is that Oxitec lacks a bullying marketing arm that doesn’t listen to its scientists nearly enough.

          • Pogo333

            I think the better analogy is that because I think motor vehicles can run into things if improperly handled, all motor vehicles should be banned.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            And what is the ethical case for being anti-GMO? How is synthetic insulin produced by GM organisms less ethical than the old animal derived insulin that was less pure and sometimes caused allergies?

            I also note that you’ve cited Oliver Tickell , editor of The Ecologist, who you describe as “a reputable source” to give gravitas to the GM mossie theory you find credible . Are you joking? The Ecologist has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories and balmy nonsense and under Oliver Tickell’s stewardship things have got worse rather than better. As you are undoubtedly aware, Oliver Tickell has a longstanding bromance with the plane crash conspiracy theorist, Patrick Haseldine, hence Onionesque articles like this appear: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2224221/flight_103_it_was_the_uranium.html

            Tickell also has an Onionesque back catalogue of articles that are ROTFL material.

            I think it is most likely that disgust and spurious safety fears are the reasons why you are anti-GM, however much you may deny it.

          • Gordon Ingram

            So you’re telling me why I think what I think. I thought I was the psychologist! And scientists wonder why they are sometimes perceived as arrogant…

            You are right about Tickell though, I was not familiar with his work and I now see that he is not as reputable as I thought him to be. I still think he constructed a very elegant argument. But like most elegant arguments, it looks to be full of holes. In any case I am not so concerned with the specifics of this story, as with its general implications.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Lol. The anti-vaxxers are fixating on a new tDap vaccine regime that preceded the alleged microcephaly cluster as the cause and the anti-GMOers are fixating on GM mossies as the cause. I wonder what the “aliens walk amongst us” crowd are up to.

            In your two score dispatches you’ve cited a well known crank to try to make your opinion look respectable but you’ve failed to cite anyone with suitable qualifications and a track record for determining the cause of epidemics. I suppose it wouldn’t even occur to you to do so.

            Here’s my opinion; suitably qualified investigators should investigate the cause of this event in line with whatever happens to be best practice in that line of work without interference from “activists” with peculiar idées fixes. So boring, yet perfectly scientific.

          • hyperzombie

            “It’s like being anti-vivisectionist but pro-science.”
            No, it would be like being pro-modern medicine but anti surgery and MRI.
            Why would GM be a ethical issue, it is just a breeding method. Do you have ethical issues with other breeding methods, Mutagenics for example?

            Don’t give me all the common Anti-GM myths. Just a refresher, you most likely know all this already.

            For plants

            Patents… Both GM and Non GM can be patented,and it has been this way since 1930.
            Cross contamination….Can happen equally with GM and Non GM crops.
            Cost….The best germplasm costs the most, doesn’t matter if it is GM or not.
            Farmers being sued for inadvertent GM presence…..It has never happened,and never will.
            Monopoly….No seed breeder is even close to having a monopoly, and realistically it cant be done.
            Herbicides sprayed on crops….GM and non GM crops both posses this trait.
            Foreign genes….There is no such thing in nature, every thing is related.

            Other than the obvious myths what is your ethical issue with GM?

            “Qualitatively different from not believing in scientific facts such as global warming or evolution. “
            Nope, it is the other way around…There is a stronger consensus about GM than Climate Change and it is only a bit lower than the one on evolution.. This is settled science.

            ” Even if all GMOs could be proved to be 100% risk-free (which is of course impossible) I would still be against them.

            Well that is 100% anti science right there, want some links to the climate change denial sites or maybe some Anti vaxx sites? Moon landing was faked?

          • Gordon Ingram

            “Foreign genes….There is no such thing in nature, every thing is related.”

            That’s actually quite funny. You sound like a hippy.

          • hyperzombie

            Really? Do hippies know that everything is related? You do believe in evolution correct, or are you so “Pro-Science” that you believe in creation, Because even ID assumes that most genes are related.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well, I am an evolutionary psychologist, so yes I do believe in evolution. In fact I would guess that I probably know at least as much about it as you do. As I said, there is a big difference between rejecting basic scientific facts, and rejecting certain scientific methods (e.g., eugenics) on ethical grounds.

          • hyperzombie

            No one is calling for eugenics..
            And pretty much any other word behind evolutionary would inspire more faith, well except for physic. Evolutionary physics are nutbars.

          • Gordon Ingram

            If I were you I wouldn’t use the f-word, it kind of gives the game away. Lol.

          • Greg_Peterson

            I’d love to know your ethical grounds since you already ruled out safety as your concern.

          • GG

            You’re a catholic evolutionary psychologist, LOL, that explains so much. You’re not worth anyone’s time.

          • Gordon Ingram

            You’re quite right, sir. I find that both perspectives DO explain an awful lot, in their different ways. That’s why I believe in them both. As for not being worth anyone’s time, well, that depends what a person is looking to get out of their time with me, doesn’t it? :)

          • Gordon Ingram

            So if GM is just a breeding method, you presumably have no ethical problem with genetically engineering humans, then? Including for designer purposes? After all, we breed. And we unconsciously seek out mates who we think will give us attractive offspring. What’s the difference with giving the baby a bit of bioluminescence as well? That would be cool!

          • hyperzombie

            “genetically engineering humans”
            Nope, do you have something against humans living there whole (short) lives with serious genetic problems? Plus there are GMO humans now, they are in High school I believe.
            “Including for designer purposes”
            I am kind of a fence sitter on that one.
            “What’s the difference with giving the baby a bit of bioluminescence as well?

            Well that is a horrible human trait, but what about extra intelligence? Or longevity?

          • Gordon Ingram

            Yeah but that’s the problem isn’t it? How do you admit extra intelligence and longevity, but ban bioluminescence? Where does it end? All of us living in some kind of cartoon? Sorry but I think we can do better than that as a species.

          • hyperzombie

            “Sorry but I think we can do better than that as a species.”
            How so when you want to restrict the tools that us humans have access too?
            So we can cure disease but not make more intelligence? Why would that be ethical?

          • abraba

            GM is just a breeding method? That is totally incorrect. GM is a vast and ever growing set of techniques and discoveries, and is flat out wrong to claim that all of the ethical or even technical aspects of these are “settled.” Science never “settles” anyway – it seeks to build evidence for hypotheses and to disprove bad theories with evidence. And neither of those has anything to do with how governments, industries and communities choose to apply technology.

          • brian

            Even if all GMOs could be proved to be 100% risk-free (which is of course impossible) I would still be against them.

            Whoa – what? So, if it was down to you, you would block a branch of biotechnology that has enormous potential for producing better plants even through there was no risk in using that technology? That makes no sense.

            What’s your stance on other biotechnology, like MAS for example?

          • Bill Carey

            Often enough, it appears to be a matter of affinity more than any attribute that drives a person into one camp over another. Ethics be damned.

          • JuHoansi

            “Nope, you cant be “Very Pro Science” and then pick and choose what science you believe in, that is not the way it works”

            Yup, that’s the way it works. Lots of scientists disagree with each other. Yet they are all pro science.

            What a ridiculous statement.

          • hyperzombie

            LOL, strawman alert! We are talking about science, not scientists personal opinions.

          • JuHoansi

            Huh? You think scientists never disagree over the actual science? What an even more ridiculous statement.

          • hyperzombie

            Well, of course they disagree on contentious issues, but they back up their opinions with evidence. Without evidence, they might as well be two dudes arguing about what Slurpee flavor is the best.
            BTW, I think the science is settled on this as well, it is Orange with a dollop of Coke Slurpee on top…

          • JuHoansi

            Then we agree that people can be pro science and still disagree over real substantive issues of actual science.

          • hyperzombie

            No, opinions can clash, but science is based on evidence. There is no credible evidence or even credible mechanism, for a particular plant breeding method to be more harmful than any other.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I think I could make a case that mutagenesis could be more hazardous, considering the mutations are random and before our modern era of high throughput genome sequencing suitability of mutagenic cultivars was determined phenotypically, so there’s really know way of know how many mutations occur.

            Of Course I don’t actually think mutagenesis makes varieties that are anymore harmful than any other plant breeding method. But atleast there’s a plausible mechanism for higher potential risk with mutagenesis, unlike with agrobacterium mediated transformations.

          • hyperzombie

            I know, I just phrased it very awkwardly. I meant to say exactly what you stated, but in 20 words or less. I failed.
            Plus if I try to spell any word starting with “pheno” spell checker changes it to Phoebe, I wonder why?

            https://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=imgres&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjs5I6fhvHKAhUCPj4KHQbpA2cQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.popsugar.com%2Fentertainment%2Fphoto-gallery%2F23960962%2Fimage%2F23963824%2FPhoebe-Cates-Fast-Times-Ridgemont-High&psig=AFQjCNFPAbBRkP7HhpiWbnJ_uLv5QC3ROQ&ust=1455326014137536

          • hyperzombie

            Off topic question, but do you think if the Organic industry embraced GMOs from the start but banned Mutagenic crops, that the conversation would be the same?
            Would we be defending Mutants?

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Very very likely or atleast I would like to think so.

            Mutation breeding is a useful tool for generating background variety; subject 100,000 + seeds to radiation, grow ’em out and see if anything interesting or useful pops up. I don’t think it has the same utility as genetic engineering does for addressing specific needs within agriculture but it has it place.

          • hyperzombie

            I would as well, who doesn’t love Red grapefruits, and fancy cherry tomatoes.

          • JuHoansi

            Pure nonsense. Scientists disagree everyday over matters of real substantive science. They can disagree over the evidence. Come back when you’ve stopped playing semantic games.

          • hyperzombie

            Once again you are confusing opinion with science.

          • JuHoansi

            Like I said, come back when you’ve stopped playing semantic games.

          • hyperzombie

            Once again you are confusing opinion with science.

          • JuHoansi

            Your username suits you. You’re pathetic.

          • hyperzombie

            LOL, so once again, you got nothing.. And you call me pathetic. Funny.

          • JuHoansi

            Once again scientists can and do disagree over actual science, as well as over their opinions about the actual science. That’s the history of science. Yes, you are pathetic.

          • hyperzombie

            Once again you are confusing opinion with science, so sad that you cant tell the difference.

          • JuHoansi

            Once again you think that scientists always agree on the science, even though the entire history of science refutes you. Pathetic really.

          • hyperzombie

            It doesn’t matter what the scientists opinions are about issues, only the science matters.
            No one cared about Einstein’s opinions, until he did the science and came up with general relativity. No one Believes Darwin because he has an epic beard, it is the science. Like come on, without evidence a scientist’s opinion is about as credible as a 7-11 cashier. Scientists may disagree about lots of things but the actual testable, reproduced science tells the real story.

          • JuHoansi

            You’re like a turd that won’t flush. And you have a romantic vision of science. Actual testable science takes place in a community of scientists, over time, and is full of contestation. Einstein and Bohr argued over the actual science, NOT their opinions about the actual science. It took decades of disagreement, experimentation, math, and wrestling with the actual physics, before a general consensus emerged that Bohr was right about quantum mechanics. “Facts” don’t just magically appear with everyone instantly agreeing on them; they are slowly generated through conflicting ideas about them.

          • Nathan Mitchell

            Science is not black and white and not all is correct. I support climate change is man made 100%, and i support genetic research in the lab, but never should we modify nature, we have no clue what we are doing.

          • Nathan Mitchell

            That’s the dumbest comment I’ve ever read, i feel dumber just for reading it.

          • abraba

            So in order to qualify as “pro-science” I must accept all current and future applications of GMO technology and not be concerned that the consequences of misapplying given aspects of it might have dire consequences? GMO technology isn’t aactually merely a science, but a set of various scientific methods and discoveries applied by industry, government, and commercial interests to various “problems” as well as to profit making opportunities. Being skeptical of some of these is nothing whatsoever like being a “climate denier.” The reality of climate change is actually the very proof that our technological activities can have severe and unintended consequences for the planet. I have to conclude that your short term scientific reasoning is sound but you are also potentially a gullible fool who doesn’t want to entertain the bad possibilities because it threatens your own ego and need to be “right.”

          • Gordon Ingram

            I couldn’t have put it better myself (apart from the last sentence which I think is a bit rude – though I totally understand your anger; I just think expressing it in online debates is often counterproductive).

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            How about some “scientific” support for your opinion.

          • Gordon Ingram

            What opinion? My opinion that I am pro-science? Learn how to write, please.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            Yes, your opinion that you are pro science yet anti GMO. Not that complex. Please explain with some kind of scientific support or scientifically relevant reasoning why you are pro science and anti GMO. Learn to read please.

          • Greg_Peterson

            WHY are you anti-GM, Gordon? If science does not support your objection–and unless you have something brand new, it doesn’t–then yeah, being anti-GM is pretty much a branch of anti-science. It might not be anti-OTHER-KINDS-OF-SCIENCE, but it amounts to less than a full-scale acceptance of the scientific method. A young earth creationist might be an awesome botanist, but clearly there is some level of disconnect there.

          • Gordon Ingram

            It’s really a bit odd that some people can’t see the difference between believing in a scientific fact (e.g. that genomes can be manipulated) and believing in the use of a particular technology (that genomes *should* be manipulated). I thought I’d explained this well enough with the analogy with being against vivisection. It’s really exactly analogous. Or if you think it’s not, please tell me why you think that.

          • Greg_Peterson

            I do not confuse can with should, Gordon. There are a lot of things that humans can do that are morally repugnant. The “should” boils down to a rather utilitarian argument. Unless you can show a reason we should NOT modify genes in this way (and we’ve been modifying genomes for many centuries via selective breeding–have you ever seen what a while banana, or eggplant, or ear of corn, looked like before we went to work on them), I think the moral burden is on you. GMOs promise to help solve issues related to hunger and malnutrition. Unless your sole argument is that because something CAN be done carelessly or even dangerously, it must not be done at all, I don’t see your point. And if that IS your point, I don’t find it cogent. What’s more, I see no similarity between modifying rice to help prevent blindness and dissecting a living sentient being. I find you sincere–but utterly unconvincing.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Hi Greg, I didn’t reply to this or your other comment on ethics because they seemed a little OT for a blog like this. If you’re interested in continuing the discussion please tweet me @gordoning so I can DM you my email address.

          • Jon

            Earlier experiments with the screw worm fly in Texas and the Eastern Oregon and California Jack Rabbit extermination were certainly early GMO projects. Both were successful for their stated purpose, but it is not to say that all GM should happen, and all outcomes are definitely unknown. I am with you on pro-science, but all science is not necessarily “science.” It is difficult to think of any postulation that has not been changed, revised,altered, or reversed over the past few decades.

          • Emkay

            I liked the woman who said ‘I’m pro-abortion but it’s a shame it didn’t happen to you…

    • Rob Jones

      That’s right, freedom of speech is the problem. Sound science can’t possibly be expected to defend itself against nonsensical theories cooked up amongst the billions of humans out there, can it? No, let’s not make more effort to publicize the facts, we’ll just take away people’s ability to spread their own ideas instead.

      And you wonder why these theories convince so many people when the opposition has that kind of attitude. You’re practically acting as a propagandist for the “conspiracy theorists”, you bloody fool.

    • Maynex

      The article stated that male mosquitoes don’t bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. This statement is misleading as it gloss over the fact that whatever pathogen infected the male mosquitoes will also infect female mosquitos, and female mosquitos can pass on the pathogen to humans!

  • Dominick Dickerson

    Excellent article,

    It’s appalling to see how people’s opposition to genetic engineering infiltrates media sources. Those journalist promulgating nonsensical conspiracy theories should be sacked.

    Responsible Journalists and media are crucial to having a more informed public and those who want to run a story based on their ideological predisposition against a safe technology or a desire to simply generate traffic for their outlet have no place in journalism.

    • Dan Keown

      So epidemiology is just conspiracy theories now. Jesus, you can’t even ask questions and make connections without being s ‘conspiracy theorist’. Get a grip!

      • Dan Keown

        What exactly would you have told Percival Pott when he suggested that chimney sweeps should stop working? Shut up, conspiracy theorist!

        • Wilson Aquarius

          Exactly Dan they want to make questioning anything a taboo. Just like they did during the commie scare. As soon as you ask a question they say you were a tin foil hat and that you think the earth is flat. We already know that dumb is the new cool thing. How can you even use the scientific method without a hypothesis? Then you set out to prove or disprove. This guy didn’t address any real issues just sites studies that were funding by Oxitec kind of a conflict of interest really.

          • http://about.me/karen_spiegelman Karen Spiegelman

            What guy? The author of this article is a woman. Nobody needs to try to make your side look dumb, honestly. Especially when the only document I’ve seen cited (that’s how you spell the word, by the way) by you guys is from a well-known anti-GMO crusader. It’s not just a matter of words being strung together on the screen, it’s a matter of the reliability of the source.

          • Wilson Aquarius

            More ad hominem attacks with no substance. I dont have to cite anything Its called theory and not a conspiracy. I followed the events on my own and came to the same conclusion. You have no argument bye

          • JoeFarmer

            LOL!

            I don’t have to prove anything except to my mom who controls my PS4.

            Winning!

          • ostracion

            “I dont have to cite anything”
            Pffffff.

          • Gordon Ingram

            He can’t cite anything if the studies haven’t been done yet. No-one has actually *tested* yet to see if GMOs might have contributed to the Brazilian microcephaly epidemic. So we’re all just speculating at this stage.

      • Rickinreallife

        No, Mr. Keown, Mr. Dickerson is not making that argument no matter how you contort his comment. Yes, epidemiology is a valid methodology for arriving at hypotheses for potential causes of outbreaks. What the article is criticizing is very poor epidemiology. Those who first raised the hypothesis of outbreaks of Zika (lay observers, not professional epidemiologists) being first detected and concentrated in areas of the release of the gm mosquitos was very poor epidemiology because its assumptions of where and when the gm mosquitos were released are factually incorrect. The article doesn’t even criticize the first appearance of the theory on Reddit, but criticizes media for disseminating the theory without more responsible investigation into whether the outbreak of Zika actually does correspond geographically and in time with where the mosquitos were introduced as the theory suggested.
        Because of the lack of critical assessment of initial media disseminators to even attempt a cursory look at whether the premise of geographical and temporal correlation raised by a lay speculator was plausible or factually correct, the story got replicated and disseminated. Thankfully, we have responsible journalism such as this article to provide some more factual information about when and where the mosquitos were introduced and we can make a better informed decision about whether there is any quality epidemiological evidence to support the hypothesis.

        • Dan Keown

          The article title is “No, GM mosquitoes did not cause Zika outbreak’.
          Really? The author knows this for a fact does she? It’s actually much worse bias than media SPECULATING that GM mosquitoes and microcephaly might be linked.

          • Paul Bedson

            As far as I can see, the author just moved the “where” from one red spot to another in what could be a trail of where it started. Then moved the “when” without apparently reading in the article being criticized that the “when” doesn’t matter because the question raised was whether Zika was incubated in the 5% of surviving males with defective genes that could then have had offspring with more defective genes into the gene pool. Could it take 3 or 4 years to develop Zeka from the mosquitos released in 2012. This article certainly doesn’t answer that question. It tries to deny the question!

          • Paul Bedson

            As far as I can see, the author just moved the “where” from one red spot to another red spot in what could be a trail of where it started. Then moved the “when” without apparently reading in the speculation that the “when” doesn’t matter because the question raised was whether Zika
            was incubated in the 5% of surviving males with defective genes that could then have had offspring with more defective genes into the gene pool. Could it take 3 or 4 years to develop Zeka from the mosquitos released in 2012? This article certainly doesn’t answer that question.
            It tries to deny the question!

      • Dominick Dickerson

        The entire theory comes from the conspiracy subreddit.

        Are any epidemiologists actually taking this theory seriously or is it only the amateur epidemiologist on the Internet?

        In any event Mrs Wilcox explains that nothing about this nonsensical theory lines up. Not the timing, not even the geography.

        Its wet pavement causes rain logic.

        • Dan Keown

          Looking through your previous postings reveals pretty much all of them are about saying how safe GM is:
          that means either
          a) you’re a bit boring, myopic and nerdy
          b) as above +you work in biotech (my guess) and so have a conflict of interest – your paycheck comes from them
          c) less likely you’re a paid shill

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Probably closer to a), Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be “myopic”. On the contrary I’ve considered the long term implications of genetic engineering quite seriously and at some depth. As far as boring goes, my friends think I’m hoot im noted for my acerbic wit. And if nerdy means having a slavish obsession over evidence and wanting to understand phenomena about the world then yes I’m pretty nerdy.

            I have many topics of interest, it’s just that there aren’t many good disqus conversations going about Paleocene domestication events/the natural history of crops, or solid discussions on Polynesian archaeology. Social media is abuzz with stories concerning genetic engineering, which happens to be in my wheel house. But I also like iberian cuisine, traveling, discussions about sustainability and just generally being loquacious.

            Many of my posts are about the safety of GE crops, because I have to explain so often to a great many people what the scientific consensus is on those crops. You wouldn’t believe the factual inaccuracies I see regarding the topic, spread all over social media.

            I think if you check my posts in this comment section I brought up some really salient points concerning the topic at hand.

          • Dan Keown

            ‘closer to a’ : says it all really
            I’m completely at ‘a’ but dont post exclusively about GMO.
            I hope you enjoy your 30 pieces of silver… mwa ha ha

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I wish! Wouldn’t that be a sweet gig, getting paid to post online and correct people about matters of science. That would be the life.

            Maybe we can lobby for such a thing to be part of government branch. We can call it the department of shill services. It’s about time our government did something to insure responsible and sustainable shilling, so that future generation can share in the magic of it the shill experience.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            Working for biotech is not a conflict of interest, rather it is validation that he may have a clue what he’s talking about. Science is hard. Leave it for the scientists.

          • Tantalus

            False trichotomy. You haven’t proved that these subsets span the set of people who “pretty much always post about how safe GM is”.

    • Toni Massari

      YOU POOR DUNCE…

      • JoeFarmer

        Not only did you abuse the caps-lock key, you failed to refute anything that Dominick Dickerson posted.

        Which pretty much makes you a brainless dum.b.ass! Congrats for showing your backside to the world!

      • Dominick Dickerson

        Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

        It’s always nice to see such thoughtful and eloquent posts.

    • Daniel Astorga

      it is interesting that the modification of the mosquitos released was meant to mess with the reproduction of mosquitos in the wild where the offspring are unable to develop to adult hood. Then people are afflicted with their children not being able to develop to adulthood because their brain capacity is hindered. This defect is being attributed to mosquito bites… and oddly enough it shows up after gm mosquitos have been released in the wilds of brazil in 2011 and 2012. It fits the time frame. Why is it that science cannot be wrong?? One of the first things one learns in science is that you can and will be wrong and nothing is concrete and definite.bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

  • Emmanuel Aluko

    This is a very well explained article, and it is not clear to me as someone who has no stake in this debate but is interested in the science as to what the facts actually are. In the absence of independent peer reviewed scientific facts, conspiracy theories will run riot.
    what is Oxitec’s response to the article from Genewatch where a comparison of RIDL (Oxitec’s approach) and SIT is discussed at the link below?:

    http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Oxitec_unansweredQs_fin.pdf

    If the science works, then it can be an additional tool in the fight against these “deadly” tropical diseases. But, does the science work?

    • http://about.me/karen_spiegelman Karen Spiegelman

      Even in the presence of overwhelming peer-reviewed literature, anti-vax has run amok. Don’t blame idiocy on a lack of publications.

      • Emmanuel Aluko

        That’s is very true. But not all vaccines work, and that is exactly what science does, try and keep trying until it works, sometimes with unintended consequences. Anything “genetically modified” is likely to face more resistance than normal (mostly political or social), rightly so as if it is to be ingested and it is toxic, has far-reaching consequences. I am all for science, but science that is clearly explained and not experimentally risking lives. I do not purport that Oxitec’s science does these things, but I am yet to find an independent write-up that details results of experiments so far. I would rather it worked, and we can get on with the real business of eliminating diseases.

      • Wilson Aquarius

        Where is this literature and independent studies about Oxitec? Where are you getting the research? Even Oxitec hasn’t studied all aspects of the GM misquito.

        • http://about.me/karen_spiegelman Karen Spiegelman

          Read my comment and try again.

      • Dan Keown

        The Vaccine industry fudges and manipulates all their research. No wonder people dont trust vaccines

  • Dan Keown

    It’s not ‘conspiracy theory’ it’s epidemiology and since the true cause is still unknown: It’s a fair question whether injecting rat DNA into mosquitoes has caused unintended consequences. Call yourself a scientist?!

    • Warren Lauzon

      “Inject” rat DNA? And how exactly does that work?

      • AutismDadd

        Ask you Dad

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Make mosquitos don’t bite

      • Wilson Aquarius

        Yes youre right but 100% of males were not released there are still quite a large number of females unintended released. They state this on the oxitec website. Also they also state that 3-5% of the offspring can survive and those can also be females. We do not know the consequences of a the survivors or human interaction

  • cincinnati lady

    Hello, I read the whole article and while I do see there is a definite lack of proof the gm mosquitos are at fault I also don’t see any proof that they are not and since there is this new frightening development relatively near the release of these gm mosquitos isn’t it worth looking into? It just seems like there is an awfully big hurry to declare there is no way the gm mosquitos could have affected things when you don’t really know that for sure. And an AWFULLY big rush to call anyone asking about it a fringe lunatic.

    • Warren Lauzon

      You cannot prove a negative. Prove that your dog’s fleas are not the cause of the outbreak in Florida.

      • Wilson Aquarius

        A negative is all about semantics. Your example is horrible and can easily be disproved nice try. The same logic would apply to oxitec as well. Prove that local tetracycline does not have an affect on survival rates. They funded their own study and that was enough for the FDA just like all GMOs no independent long term studies have been done on this mosquito.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          There it is!

          you can tell who believes the conspiracy theory, it’s the same people who deny the scientific consensus about genetic engineering in general. They see the letters “gm” and start frothing at the mouth.

          • Dan Keown

            Again. Why are you calling this a ‘conspiracy theory’? Are you suggesting that, even though it is MANDATED by law, companies dont try to maximise their profits?

          • Dominick Dickerson

            A companies responsibility to their shareholders doesn’t mean that they must by necessity be committing criminal acts and crimes against humanity to further the bottom line. What kind of ridiculous strawman argument is that.

            Get a grip.

          • JoeFarmer

            The woo is strong with that one. See vax comment above…

          • Analyst of Life

            You are not making much sense. Of course the companys intention wasn’t human birth defects, who furthers their bottom line like that? What kind of moron would think that.

            However. Would a company have a legal obligation to project alternative theories via their public relations department to minimize damage? I’m guessing that lead counsel would argue the company has a duty to minimize the damaging narrative and insert possible alternatives. Like let’s say, a virus that suddenly is doing some greater damage. Or linkage to mildly similar incidents in recent years. Deflection buys you time and in business, time is money.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            its not my conspiracy theory dude. I hear all the time about how biotech companies are knowing trying to kill us using GE crops.

            That whole second paragraph is just more supposition couched in thinly veiled anticorporate rhetoric.

          • JuHoansi

            What ‘scientific consensus about genetic engineering”?

          • Dominick Dickerson

            http://www.siquierotransgenicos.cl/2015/06/13/more-than-240-organizations-and-scientific-institutions-support-the-safety-of-gm-crops/

            This one, as reflected in the scientific literature and in the professional opinions of over 240 scientific organizations from all over the world.

        • Warren Lauzon

          Proving a negative is in itself a logical fallacy.

          • AutismDadd

            Is that the same as claiming vaccines save lives but there’s no way to prove it?

          • Warren Lauzon

            How many people got polio last year as compared to 1950?

        • Dan Keown

          Dominick Dickerson has 2 500 posts exclusively writing about how great GM is.
          Nothing else, just that.

          • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

            And, your point? I know plenty of people on here who post exclusively about their favorite bands, or baseball team. So what?

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Make mosquitos don’t bite and cannot spread anything to humans. How much more proof do you need?

      • Wilson Aquarius

        Such a simple dissonance solution. All females are not successfully sorted out they state that on their website. Also 3-5% survival rate of offspring would include females. Where are the independent studies to show the lack of consequences of the interaction of these females and survivors?

        • Analyst of Life

          There were no further studies done to see if the surviving offspring (F1) actually produce an even higher surviving offspring (F2).
          That would have been interesting to find out….

      • Analyst of Life

        But what IF 0.004% of MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of bugs happen to be female….

      • Dan Keown

        3% (companies own estimate) may make viable offspring

  • LEE HAMILTON

    It is not conspiracy to question available data, research material. Isn’t this the scientific approach? To question, theorise, discuss…

    • Wilson Aquarius

      Thank you very much.

  • Wilson Aquarius

    What a dumb article. Of course the argument is ad hominem and meant to bash the opponent which is a fallacy. You can’t start an argument by calling people crazy. Also how can you site a study which was funded and paid for by the company that is trying to make a profit! If I make a product and sponsor a study after investing millions do you think that the study I fund will also cause me to go out of business? There are too many variables. Yes youre right in some areas, but 100% of males were not released there are still
    quite a large number of females unintended released. They state this on
    the oxitec website. Also they also state that 3-5% of the offspring can
    survive and those can also be females who feed. We do not know the consequences
    of a the survivors or human interaction. What a sorry attempt to make yourself feel better its clear you have a case of cognitive dissonance.

  • Dominick Dickerson

    And cue the conspiracy theorists claiming “We’re just asking questions”.

    • Dan Keown

      As opposed to what good scientists do: ask questions

      • Dominick Dickerson

        Are there any professional scientists who are taking this conspiracy theory seriously?

        Cause the only people pushing this theory are the “do your own research” crowd sharing likes to alt media sites on the march against monsanto Facebook page.

        The conspiracy theorists ask their questions, and Mrs Wilcox doing here due diligence as a science reporter investigated their claims.

        • Dan Keown

          I’m sorry to be (mildly) offensive, but are you an idiot? Its no more a ‘conspiracy theory’ than saying that Walmart deliberately try to pay their staff as little as possible. There are ‘conspiracies’ everywhere anyway, what do you think is going on behind the scenes with Trump and Clinton et al; you think they’re playing the game exactly as you see it?! Stop being both nieve and disingeneous

          • Dominick Dickerson

            L…O…L

    • Wilson Aquarius

      Cognitive dissonance at its best. You scared man

    • mem_somerville

      I can’t fathom why it’s so important to them to deny the basic biology of viruses and infections.

      Viruses suck. You don’t have to invent special magical claims and scenarios. And going on the wrong track does absolutely ZERO to help affected people. In fact, it harms them.

      • Dominick Dickerson

        They saw the letters “GM” and it just sets them off. Of course this unfolding human tragedy is caused by genetic modification, that’s what fits in with the cosmology of their preformed beliefs.

      • JoeFarmer

        Yep. Just like how some people get all excited about subsidized solar panels, yet they don’t understand the point of having actual power plants that work 24/7…

        Heh

        • J. Randall Stewart

          Yep on solar panels. I get a big tax credit from the government, a subsidy from the power company, then I get to depreciate the original cost (don’t have to deduct the credits from basis), so there is another subsidy there.

          Then the power company acts as my free battery by taking my excess power when they don’t even need it, then giving it back for free when they need it more elsewhere.

          After all that, solar can pay.

          And they call it sustainable power.

          At least I look good to the guys who don’t know any better. Or who don’t realize how much they pay me in tax credits for this “sustainable” power.

          When a product can’t even return 50% of its cost under the most favored conditions, it sure isn’t sustainable.

        • mem_somerville

          You are confusing me with anti-nuke folks, Joe? Your conflation is adorable, though.

  • Wilson Aquarius

    How do you explain a 90% population reduction followed by a 10 fold increase in disease?

    • Dominick Dickerson

      90% where the field studies were conducted, which contrary to the conspiracy theory is not where the most effected areas are.

      It’s almost like you didn’t actually read the article or something.

      • Dan Keown

        The reason that the most cases are 300km away (which is pretty close on the map) is probably because that is the population centres! How many people live in the middle of the amazonian rainforest compared to the coast?

      • Wilson Aquarius

        You have no clue if the population was killed or simply relocated because of the effected ecosystem

        • Dominick Dickerson

          Now you’re just making suppositions.

          I don’t really understand how the release of oxitecs male mosquitos would affect the ecosystem (which was in a city) in a way that would prompt the migration of this specific population of mosquitos 150 miles away?

          Oxitec put a fluorescence gene as part of the expression cassette in its mosquitos, if the mosquito carries a copy of the lethal gene it will fluoresce when viewed under certain conditions. Do you have evidence that mosquitos found 150 miles away from where the field trials occured express this fluorescent trait?

  • Analyst of Life

    In case anyone cares: 0.004% of the released GM mosquitoes are females, which bite. The company claimed back in 2011-2012 that they had a gene specific to females that would prevent them from flying (I guess give them a birth defect) as secondary control. So females are getting out and it’s not clear (present day Brazil-2015) if currently the females are furthered controlled via wingless deformation.

    The afflicted larvae (produced with a ‘sterile’ male) are all supposed to die before they hatch. At least 4% will survive (Oxitec admits this), but it can go as high as 15%. What if these surviving offsprings or the females that are released and maintain their wings are somehow ‘horizontally’ transferring the lethal gene (stunt cell growth) via an organism that can copy transfer genetic code to hosts body….like lets… say a Virus.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      “What if these surviving offsprings or the females that are released and maintain their wings are somehow ‘horizontally’ transferring the lethal gene (stunt cell growth) via an organism that can copy transfer genetic code to hosts body….like lets… say a Virus.”

      That’s an aweful lot of if statements.

      Why don’t instead of fanning the fires of speculation with conjecture we restrict ourselves to discussion of facts, shall we?

      • Analyst of Life

        Fact: Virus can transfer genetic codes across species.
        Fact: 4%-15% of offsprings do not die during the larvae stages and hatch WITH the lethal gene present.
        Fact: Females are getting out by the company’s’ own admission
        Conjecture: Did we make Zika worse?
        Conjecture: Has the lethal gene jumped species and is showing up as deformities.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          If/When they sequence the genome of one of the effected children and don’t find the lethal gene where will you move your goal posts to then?

          • Analyst of Life

            I would be satisfied if a large enough sample of the children genomes are sequenced to avoid a false negative. I’m sure you will agree this is a prudent approach. Since nothing is even 100% accurate….as we all know

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I mean theoretically they wouldn’t even have to sequence it now that I’m really thinking about it. they could just test for the presence of the “lethal gene” in the effected children by using PCR.

            It would be relatively cheap and easy to do.

            I imagine thats what they’ll end up doing in an effort to appease the conspiracists but only after they’ve diverting energy and good will away from a viable vector control solution because of mistrust over genetic engineering.

          • Gordon Ingram

            “I imagine thats what they’ll end up doing in an effort to appease the conspiracists”

            You don’t think it might be a good idea to double check that GMOs don’t cause health problems in the real world, with or without conspiracy theorists? You trust the science to just “work”, do you? I think you’re the naive one…

          • Dominick Dickerson

            No Gordon, given the state of the global scientific consensus, I’m quite certain concerning its conclusions on the safety of genetic engineering as a breeding method and the crops that hwve already passed regulatory muster.

            I don’t automatically assume the science works, I have the opinions of thousands of scientists, every major scientific body and 20 years worth of scientific literature that tells me the science behind genetic engineering works.

          • Gordon Ingram

            The technology may work but where is the science on the risks to human populations? And I want specific citations, not blather about a “global scientific consensus”. I’m a scientist and I don’t subscribe to that consensus!

          • Dominick Dickerson

            You don’t have to, consensus is not the same as unanimity.

            If your a scientist then surely you know how to engage in the literature on the issue and should be more than qualified to parse the lackluster studies from the good ones.

            If yould like I could recommend a Facebook group GMO Skeptiforum, perhaps such a sprawling conversation would better be handled their.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Sounds very impartial! Lol. But I will check it out.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Also, why are you talking about crops when the discussion is about mosquitos? You seem knowledgeable enough on the science, but your grasp of logical argumentation is lacking.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            “You don’t think it might be a good idea to double check that GMOs don’t cause health problems in the real world”

            You’re the one who opened up the conversation to the safety of genetic engineering , sensu lato. I merely responded to you.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Yeah, you made a pretty superficial response. I’m still waiting for citations to long-term studies showing that GMOs do not adversely affect human health.
            In any case, I was making a general point (about the need to check safety of GMOs ) in the service of the specific point that in this case the safety of the mosquitos to human health had not been checked.
            Again, you seem to be having some difficulties with the logic of argumentation.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I disagree. But you’re welcome to your opinion concerning my argumentation.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      And not that you probably particularly care but the wingless females are for a different mosquito, not Ae. aegypti.

      Oxitec has two vector control solutions that are in late project development.

      OX513A which is Ae. aegypti modified to contain a self limiting gene. This is the mosquito that was released in Brazil

      OX3688 Ae. albopictus, which is the flightless female strain. This has not be released.

  • Bbindyy

    I think it’s unscientific to exclude the genetically modified mosquitoes as potentially being the problem. If Zika has spread “explosively” to 25 countries, then why is all the press about Zika causing microcephaly ? Nobody has issue with this theory. WHO is on it. Why are increased cases of microcephaly not being noted in the other countries having a problem with Zika ? This leads one to think the problem is something unique to Brazil. So why would so many people want to blame the anti-GMO’ers for noticing the elephant in the room ? Seems ridiculous to look at it and say it’s not even possible…

    • Dominick Dickerson

      “Why are increased cases of microcephaly not being noted in the other countries having a problem with Zika ?”

      Well likely because the Zika virus is still spreading and we’re seeing a lag in reporting cases of birth defects that may be associated with the disease. And it’s not true that no other countries are noting it. An increase in microcephaly was reported in French Polynesia in November.

      “On 24 November 2015, the health authorities of French Polynesia reported an unusual increase of at least 17 cases of central nervous system malformations in foetuses and infants during 2014–2015, coinciding with the Zika outbreaks on the French Polynesian islands. These malformations consisted of 12 foetal cerebral malformations or polymalformative syndromes, including brain lesions, and five infants reported with brainstem dysfunction and absence of swallowing. None of the pregnant women described clinical signs of ZIKV infection, but the four tested were found positive by IgG serology assays for flavivirus, suggesting a possible asymptomatic ZIKV infection. Further serological investigations are ongoing. Based on the temporal correlation of these cases with the Zika epidemic, the health authorities of French Polynesia hypothesise that ZIKV infection may be associated with these abnormalities if mothers are infected during the first or second trimester of pregnancy.”

      http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/zika-microcephaly-Brazil-rapid-risk-assessment-Nov-2015.pdf

      • Gordon Ingram

        I agree that this could be a big blow to the GMO theory. However it is interesting that they don’t use the word “microcephaly”: are these defects cognate with that disorder? I really don’t know. Also strange that the women didn’t show clinical signs of zika: I could be wrong but I don’t think that’s typically the case in Braxil.
        Anyway we need less name-calling (coughOPcough!) and more of this type of reasoned scientific argument,

        • Dominick Dickerson

          Additionally it’s not unheard for flaviviruses to cause microcephaly. En I looked for it I found instances of West Nile virus associated with several cases of microcephaly.

          The scale and scope of the current Zika outbreak in Brazil and the Americas means it’s very likely that heretofore unknown pathologies may become apparent. The current rate of infection has thus far surpassed prior outbreaks and the virus being subjected to novel selection pressures from being in a new environment fillies immunologically naive host may cause some novel mutation. Or even yet still perhaps there is something about the genotypes of people in the new world that make Zika infection more likely to cause microcephaly.

          My point is there are many many more plausible possibilities for why we’re seeing an evolution in the pathogy of the virus that have nothing to do with genetic engineering or oxitec. Running stories that all but assert that “of course it’s big bad genetic engineering that’s causing this” does everyone a disservice.

  • FreeAgent37

    If its just an outrageous conspiracy theory, then why are all the team members who are running these GM projects all working for or have worked for Syngenta, Sapphire Energy, Advanta, which are all in COLLABORATION with Monsanto???? HUH, why???

    • Jason

      Huh… Soooo… people on the project may have also worked for random large companies in the past. Yah… sounds like you got yourself a real conspiracy here!

      • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

        But but but they may have gained perfectly relevant experience working for those other random evil corporations, making them best qualified for these positions, but also learned how to be corrupt and evil! What do you say about that one, smartie pants?

        • Jason

          Damn… foiled again.

      • FreeAgent37

        Looks like you dont know what a conspiracy is, and dont know how to stand up when you and your family is being pounded from behind!!!, Oh wait!, you are acclimated to it! and know you are in love with it.

      • FreeAgent37

        You little small minded worm!!!! stand up!!! You coward!!!!

    • Paulo Andrade

      Non-sense…

  • Carlos Guevara

    Hard to take this article seriously when the author struggles to make a joke every paragraph.

    • ostracion

      It’s really hard to take your comment seriously when the only criticism you can muster is “I don’t think the author is funny.”

  • Carlos Guevara
    • Dominick Dickerson

      the ecologist. Certainly no bias from them when it comes to topics concerning genetic engineering…

      They even quote Mae Won Ho twice, the “quantum biologist”who runs ISIS and believes water has memory.

      I’m not very convinced by the arguments presented in their article. It just smacks of antibiotech propaganda.

      • Gordon Ingram

        Really and I suppose there’s no equivalent bias in scientists who work for GMO companies? You don’t think there might not be a teensy bit of selection bias there, in terms of people who think that GM is a good idea or not, and their career choices?

        • Dominick Dickerson

          Who works for biotech companies?

          I don’t, the author of this piece doesn’t, a majority of the scientists that have written and studied genetic engineering don’t.

          So your calling into question the opinion of the majority of geneticists, molecular biologists, and genetic engineers simply because they have relevant training and knowledge on the subject.

          Knowing and understanding the scientific consensus gathered through engagement in the literature is not bias.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Oxitec’s own reports have been cited in this discussion, so my comment was relevant. And even if bioscientists don’t work for private companies, their career choice will bias them to be in favor of GM (or put the other way round, people who support GM are more likely to go work in biotech).

            This is actually a big and widespread problem in a modern society with fiendishly complicated division of labour (cf. bankers, economists, arms makers…), which hadn’t occurred to be before in quite this form. I ought to blog about it myself.

  • nats

    For solid, scientific counter-evidence read:

    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987024/pandoras_box_how_gm_mosquitos_could_have_caused_brazils_microcephaly_diasaster.html

    Pandora’s box: how GM mosquitos could have caused Brazil’s
    microcephaly disaster

    • Dominick Dickerson

      The conspiracy theory leaves out one important fact. neurological deformations following Zika outbreaks isn’t a unique phenomenon to Brazil.

      “On 24 November 2015, the health authorities of French Polynesia reported an unusual increase of at least 17 cases of central nervous system malformations in foetuses and infants during 2014–2015, coinciding with the Zika outbreaks on the French Polynesian islands. These malformations consisted of 12 foetal cerebral malformations or polymalformative syndromes, including brain lesions, and five infants reported with brainstem dysfunction and absence of swallowing. ”

      http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/zika-microcephaly-Brazil-rapid-risk-assessment-Nov-2015.pdf

      Also there are cases in the literature of other flavivirus infections resulting in microcephaly, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the same is happening with this Zika outbreak.

      The ecologist article is neither solid nor scientific and in fact epitomizes the kind of terrible journalism Mrs Wilcox decries in the last paragraph of this article. It’s very clear the agenda at play in mr tickells anti biotech polemic.

    • mem_somerville

      Yeah, The Ecologist has become nothing but a conspiracy site lately. Scientists I know really just pity it now. It’s embarrasing.

  • Claire Bernish

    Despite what would normally be a desire to dispute your ostensible debunking, the fact you purport yourself to be a reputed scientist, yet resorted to ad hominem attack – even going so far as to employ the image of a tinfoil-hat-wearing feline – belies an utter lack of professional decorum, not to mention basic adult behavior. So, as happy as you might be with yourself and this ‘scientific’ article of yours, and as much as you seem to enjoy controversial exchanges online in the name of self-promotion, your complete immaturity and lack of professionalism should be allowed to speak for itself – and certainly isn’t deserving of further response from me.

    • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

      Claire, if you chose to behave like a creep by spreading conspiracy theories that could do harm, you do not deserve respect or civility. What you deserve is ridicule and ostracism.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      With all due respect, I think you ceded any expectation to be accorded very much professional decorum when you decided to run a story you picked up from /r/conspiracy with out properly examining the evidence. And while I’m sure your story was a hit amongst anti-authoritarians and March against Monsanto types, how did you expect science writers and the scientific community to respond?

      I can only speculate as to your reasoning for this, but I wouldn’t rule out a predisposition against biotechnology or biotech companies given the tone of you previous work. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine the culture at AntiMedia is particularly embracing of biotechnology.

      When you publish you open yourself up to criticism. You as a journalist should know and expect that.

      That Mrs. Wilcox indicts you for sloppy journalism in this instance is well within her right (she makes a very compelling case against the conspiracy theory you’ve decided to promote) and given the real evidence (or rather lack there of) to support the theory laid out in your piece, I think she made the right call.

      Parting words. Grow a thicker skin. And just for your sake your unwillingness to defend your piece in the face of Mrs. Wilcox criticism doesn’t inspire confidence in the veracity or quality of your story.

      Bon adieu

    • ostracion

      The words you have written here say “I don’t care that I’ve been called out” but the unbearable sanctimonious tone and the length of your comment say “I really, really care that I’ve been called out.”

  • mitch26

    Your points are all valid however your conclusions are premature. Zika is still being studied and no conclusive result as to whether or not it may or may not result in birth deformities has been announced. While you can and do downplay any roles in this situation, you are doing so in an assured, confrontational, and overly aggressive manner that seems highly illogical.

    • Warren Lauzon

      This is something that has been missed in all the furor. So far there is not much actual evidence either way. At this point it is correlation, which may or may not be causation. One investigation showed that around 2/3 of the supposed cases were misdiagnosed, according to one article I read.

  • Toni Massari

    WOW! How much did they pay for this, dearies?

    • Warren Lauzon

      Do you have some actual valid points to make, or are you just on another one of your rants about evil corps, big pharma, Monsanto, et al?

      • Toni Massari

        YAWWWN! Another lover of Monsanto and Big Pharma… but, of course, creepy crawlies breed like.. well, cockroaches on the web… how distasteful!

        • Warren Lauzon

          And as usual, that is the only comeback you have. Listening to people like you, you would think that Monsanto is bigger than Exxon, Google, and Apple combined.

  • Toni Massari

    This is exactly the same strategy that Exxon and the rest of the Oil Companies used about Anthropogenic Climate Change/Global Warming. Only now we are seeing the extent of the damage the companies, papers, websites, radio stations and the likes of the putrid “Lord” Monkton” have done. and it may cost us the planet, because now we are dealing with 1.5 ACTUAL temperature increase. In comparison to that this campaign of disinformation is a child’s game, but the results could be, absurdly, a good thing for the planet. You see, with Zika on the scene, fewer people will have babies they may have to care for all their lives and so hopefully your campaign WILL work, humanity WILL become a species of microcephali, like the readers of your rag and birth rates will begin to drop at vertiginous rates, preventing the real catastrophe…. Or perhaps Brazil is just the testbed and soon Oxitec will be asked to roll this out world-wide, to eradicate the greatest enemy of the rich…
    THE INDEPENDENT-THINKING POOR!

  • Toni Massari

    They called global Warming a Conspiracy Theory… many still do. But I tell you what, all of you who believe this is just a conspiracy theory, GO TO BRAZIL! I am sure YOU know best how to handle the crisis… a crisis that did not exist before! In spite of Brazil being inhabited for a bloody long time. No, really, I think your readers should be STERILISED!

    • JoeFarmer

      Nice spooge-a-thon, Toni.

      No one will ever accuse you of being smart. You can take that to the bank.

  • Dominick Dickerson

    Why are they the “obvious culprit”?

    Based on a conspiracy theory from Reddit, that picked up enough traffic in alt media sites to have some bottom tier newspapers like the daily mail run with the story?

    I think they look like the culprit to you not based upon any sort coherence of the supposed “evidence” (since there isn’t any) but rather based in your general position on biotechnology in general.

    Would that be a fair assessment?

  • Dominick Dickerson

    So if I were to tell you that microcephaly is not unheard of as a result of flavivirus (the family of virus that Zika) would that change your reasoning?

    Or that incidences of several kinds of neurological birth defects were reported in French Polynesia as a result of a Zika virus outbreak there. Would that change your mind considering that invalidates your claims that “there was never a reported birth defect”.

    http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/zika-microcephaly-Brazil-rapid-risk-assessment-Nov-2015.pdf

    The Zika virus while having been know about since 1947 was before recently restricted to certain parts of Africa and Asia. If indeed a causal link between Zika virus and microcephaly is established,rather than some nefarious coverup of a biotech experiment gone wrong, isn’t it more likely that the location, scope and spread of the current outbreak is the reason we’re seeing new symptoms developing?

  • Daniel Astorga

    it is interesting that the modification of the mosquitos released was meant to mess with the reproduction of mosquitos in the wild where the offspring are unable to develop to adult hood. Then people are afflicted with their children not being able to develop to adulthood because their brain capacity is hindered. This defect is being attributed to mosquito bites… and oddly enough it shows up after gm mosquitos have been released in the wilds of brazil in 2011 and 2012. It fits the time frame. Why is it that science cannot be wrong?? One of the first things one learns in science is that you can and will be wrong and nothing is concrete and definite.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      Well for one thing there’s a reported uptick in neurological birth defects temporally associated with a Zika virus outbreak in French Polynesia from November. And it’s extremely unlikely given the extreme geographic isolation of French Polynesia that oxitecs mosquitos could have traveled to there from Brazil.

      Another thing was if this were really a concern it could be verified in several ways by scientists not Redditor on /r/conspiracy

      First if there is concern that the microcephaly is a result of some kind of horizontal integration of the” lethal gene” from mosquito to virus to human as I ve seen suggested by some, samples can be drawn from the affected children and analyzed using PCR to detect if the gene has been integrated into the childrens DNA. Mind you that doesn’t mean that the gene would function the same way in humans as is does in mosquito, but this could atleast confirm or deny that horizontal gene transfer even occured in the first place.

      I think this is unlikely as other flavivirus infections have been reported to cause microcephaly and the novelty and sheer size of the current Zika outbreak means it’s likely were going to see novel pathologies as the virus adapts to its new environment with so many diverse immunologically unprepared hosts.

      Secondly if they think that it’s persistent gene edited mosquitos that are acting as the vector this can be tested for too. As part of the gene cassette, in addition to the “lethal gene” oxitecs also insert a fluoresce gene , meaning any mosquito that successful integrates the gene cassette will glow under certain conditions under a microscope. No glow no lethal gene. Traps can be set for adult mosquitos and water sampled for larvae. From there it’s pretty straight forward.

      Thus far I’ve seen no actual evidence suggesting either horizontal gene transfer of the lethal gene or evidence that the gene edited mosquitos are still persistent over the range of the microcephaly cases.

      It’s one thing to suggest that the science might be wrong, it’s another thing entirely to do so without any good evidence.

      • Gordon Ingram

        “Another thing was if this were really a concern it could be verified in
        several ways by scientists not Redditors on /r/conspiracy”

        Argument from authority. Please leave Reddit out of it, the fact that the coincidence (which may well be all it is) of the GMO trials and the epidemic location was first noticed there, is irrelevant to subsequent discussion of the causes of the epidemic. (And please stop dropping the c-bomb: I have not seen anyone alleging an actual “conspiracy” here.)

        If you want a reputable source then tackle the scientific arguments presented by Oliver Tickell (editor of The Ecologist) at http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987024/pandoras_box_how_gm_mosquitos_could_have_caused_brazils_microcephaly_diasaster.html
        Very carefully and scientifically argued, I thought. And while he’s a vocal GM critic, he’s hardly a naive one.

        • mem_somerville

          Oliver Tickell is relying on cranks. It’s super pathetic. This is the problem with being outside your field. You cannot recognize that AIDS-deniers, homeopaths, and vaccine cranks are not legit.

          https://twitter.com/mem_somerville/status/694527393374015488

        • Dominick Dickerson

          I have else where in this comment section stated some of my objections to mr. Tickells piece.

          So your telling me a theory fro the /r/conspiracy subreddit isn’t a “conspiracy theory”?

          Mae Won Ho has been claiming that transposons used in genetic engineering are going to cause unintended horizontal gene transfer from GE crops for years, without any actual evidence that such has happened. She did the same thing with CaMV promoter sequence and tickells is using the same shoddy jinforation now to write his piece.mWhile on its face the ecologist piece *looks* more sophisticated and “scientifically argued” that appearance is only skin deep.

          I actually suggested below in a conversation that rather than wild speculation and conjecture, if the concern is that this “jumping gene” has caused the lethal gene to cross over from the GE mosquito into these humans that PCR should be employed to verify it (mind you this was before I had read the ecologist piece that advocates the very same same)
          That this stories went to print before that’s been done shows incredible irresponsibility and lack of journalistic ethics. Public opinion is responsive by flashy headlines and allegations of scandal, no one remembers retractions or corrections.

          • Gordon Ingram

            No, I am saying you are trying to taint by association. The person who first noticed a coincidence is relevant to deciding what caused it.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I’m assuming you meant irrelevant.

            And you don’t think where and who noticed it impacts the quality of evidence used to support it?

            Why is it were told to be implacably skeptical and untrusting of what scientific experts and biotechnology companies say regarding these kinds of technologies but when we apply the same rigor to the people critical of these technologies people cry fowl?

            But youre right the fact that it’s sourced from /r/conspiracy is irrelevant , the evidence is poor enough in its own. I just think it’s important to note that the “theory” is not one that comes from a scientific outlet.

  • Dan Keown

    Anyone about to read this comments should be aware that Dominick Dickerson has a history (eg 2500 posts) almost all of which are pro-GM. You can draw your own conclusions.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      Aw thanks, its sweet that you took the time to go through my posting history. I make no apologies for my well reasoned and well researched positions on genetic engineering nor that I restrict my posts to those stories that interest me.

      I keep my posting history open for that very reason.

      No need cast aspersions Dan. You’ll find I’m very forth coming and amenable to discussions.

      • Dan Keown

        Yes, you’d still be a weirdo. No normal person (read: no vested interest, not autistic) is single-issue to that degree.

        • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

          If you want to see a real weirdo, have a look at this creep: https://vimeo.com/user46954155

          School of Scientific Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture??!! Dr Keown??!!

          Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhha!

          • Dan Keown

            Thanks for the plug 😉 Always embarrassing to have to do it yourself

        • Dominick Dickerson

          Is that a jab at people who aren’t neurotypical Dan?

          Why do you hate people on the autism spectrum Dan?

    • https://www.AntivaxTinfoilHatWearingMoronsSuck.com FSMPastapharian

      Ummm, he’s pro GMO? Do I win a prize?

    • Rickinreallife

      Dan, if you are making an accusation, man up and say it in so many words. Spell it out, what are you accusing Dominick Dickerson of?

      • Dan Keown

        What are you accusing me of accusing him of. Come on (by your reasoning) be a man!

        • ostracion

          Stop being a child. He’s accusing you of insinuating that Dickerson is a “shill” (as you types of folks love to say) for biotech.
          Because if someone disagrees with you, they are undoubtedly bought off. It’s so much easier that way, because by deflecting and claiming bias, you don’t have to rely on the merits of your own argument.

          • Dan Keown

            Theres nothing ‘childish’ about it, in fact quite the opposite. As one famous legal authority once said ‘the bigger the truth the bigger the libel’. Anyway, if you look through the posts you’ll see I’ve already suggested this and he answered. Do you work for biotech (I dont).

          • Dan Keown

            yeah, course you do…

        • Rickinreallife

          I am not going to help you weasel. If Dominick Dickerson’s posting history makes him guilty of something, say it. I’ll help you. Your sentence should start “Mr. Dicketson, I accuse you of . . . .”. I accuse you of making vague insinuations because you know you can’t prove what you are inferring, you know it is false, but if you make a syraight up accusation, then you have a burden of proof you know you can’t meet. You want to accuse him of being a paid schill without actually having the balls to say so so that you can pretend that you really didn’t actually accuse him.

        • Rickinreallife

          You are hardly a victim in these comment thread. Your posts have been full of accusation, insinuation, and character assassination. You’ve purposely been provocative and confrontational, so don’t pretend you are the victim.

  • Jessica Rose

    Uh, maggots? Is that really necessary language in this forum? By the way, did you read some textbooks about transposons and experiments having been done years ago showing that transposon-mediated gene transfer goes down in human cells (Wilson et al, 2007)? Have you done any research (besides hunting down internet journalists) about population dynamics or have you considered what might actually happen if, as some (Phuc et al, 2007) say, 3-4% of the first generation mosquitos actually did survive? I am not saying I believe in one thing or the other, but it is very important to consider the actual facts so that real solutions may be found; more important than name-calling, for example. We need facts and prophylactic measures. Wow, and not a single word about superimposition of release of mossies and zika-induced encephalitis in newborns.

    • ostracion

      And your point about the PiggyBac transposon system outlined as a feasible tool for downstream gene therapy in humans (in that Wilson et al paper you seem so familiar with) is what exactly? What on Earth does that have to do with Zika or these GM mosquitoes? Because transposable elements exist, obviously horizontal gene transfer of the lethal gene into humans (very specifically, somehow) is responsible for….Zika virus? Or are you saying Zika virus is doing the legwork on the horizontal transfer, and all that “special GM” DNA is giving babies microcephaly? I apologize, I can’t keep of all the assumption and misconception-based scenarios you folks dream up straight.
      So if a small percentage of autocidal mosquitoes manage to survive and have the gene spread and carried around in adult female mosquitoes…so what? Even if someone was to get bitten, it’s not like human cells are going to selectively suck up that lethal gene and spontaneously splice it into their own genome. If it were that easy, every time you interacted with ANY ORGANISM your genome would get shuffled.
      As for Zika’s influence on newborns relating to the release of GM mosquitoes…uh, the same kinds of upticks in nervous system malformations in newborns were reported in French Polynesia and were associated with a Zika outbreak. No GM mosquitoes to be found out there.

      But hey, what am I doing talking shop with you anyways, right? You obviously have this stuff down. I mean, you’d have to be in expert in this, considering you’re talking down to the author and all, someone with a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology. You took the time to hunt down Dr. Wilcox’s CV, so acknowledging that this subject is solidly in her wheelhouse should be old news to you, I’m sure.
      Oh, and while I know you think telling someone you “looked them up” while making snide comments about their qualifications and where they live is cute and cheeky, it’s not. It’s a desperate, cringe-inducing display of a lack of self-awareness, and it’s vaguely threatening and creepy. The reasons for the latter (I should hope) would be obvious to you. The former? Well, since we’re in the mood apparently, let’s just say that if one were to look you up online, a summary of your intellectual achievements wouldn’t exactly jump off the first page of search results, now would it?

      • Gordon Ingram

        She’s saying it’s possible. That’s all.

        • mem_somerville
          • Gordon Ingram

            Right, so when is it OK to ask a question and when not? Who decides? I must have missed the memo…

          • ostracion

            If you were an astronomer, and someone came to you demanding we figure out whether or not Saturn is made out of peach-flavored cotton candy, how seriously would you take their line of thinking? How seriously would you take them, or the question they are so dead set on answering? This scenario is not far off from someone demanding testing to see if the mosquito lethal genes are hopping to viruses or people and/or causing microcephaly. Asking questions is great. But for questions to be worth investigating, they have to be rooted in some measure of scientific merit. There is no evidence-based reason that we should suspect Zika/microcephaly has anything to do with the transgenic mosquitoes. The entire proposition starts from an assumption that we have the biology completely wrong, while a proper question starts with a compelling reason to ask it. Yes, it’s technically “possible” that all of our understanding of transgenic tech is entirely off, and there’s some sort of mysterious way in which all the circumstantial bits and pieces of this mosquito system can align such that the lethal gene can splice into human genomes on its own AND cause harm. It’s also technically “possible” that everything we know about planetary science is bunk and Saturn is indeed made out of cotton candy.

            You’re a psychologist, right? If someone demanded you investigate a question largely based on a fundamental misunderstanding of a phenomenon in your field, would you entertain it as a research direction of any priority?

            That’s really a huge frustration when geneticists and those in related fields are pressed to answer questions about GM safety from people who have already decided they are anti-GM for philosophical reasons, and craft their questions from a perspective rife with misconceptions on how the biology even works.

          • Gordon Ingram

            “If someone demanded you investigate a question largely based on a
            fundamental misunderstanding of a phenomenon in your field, would you
            entertain it as a research direction of any priority?”

            No. But I’d try to explain to them exactly what they had misunderstood, and therefore why it wasn’t worth investigating. I notice you haven’t done that at all. Maybe you’re busy. Fine. But then how do you have time to sit there ranting at people, in a manner that is quite unimaginable in an offline scientific discussion between strangers? I think you’re just taking out your frustrations by publicly bashing members of an outgroup.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            If you spend any time on these forums you’ll soon realise that folk with an anti-vaccine or anti-GM mindset are impervious to facts and reason. I haven’t seen any of them budge an inch in my years commenting on Disqus. You say:

            But I’d try to explain to them exactly what they had misunderstood

            This doesn’t work. Aren’t you a psychologist? Haven’t you seen the evidence from research on climate change deniers that more information is ineffective. We are talking about deep seated belief systems here.

            I’ve seen folk patiently write thousands of well reasoned words with copious links to good sources but they invariably get shot down in flames and identified as a shill. It is depressing to watch.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well, why reply to people on “the other side” at all in that case? Are you showing off to people who share your beliefs? Taking out offline frustrations? Or is it pure entertainment to you? (Genuinely curious – I do teach and research cyberpsychology, after all.)

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            First because I am somewhat isolated on my farm so I appreciate the social contact, second I love arguing and third I find Disqus has helped me refine my own thinking.

          • Gordon Ingram

            OK, that’s a fair answer. I appreciate your honesty. Still think you’re contradicting yourself a bit though :)

          • Gordon Ingram

            Of course there’s only a tiny minority of people whose minds can be changed, like yours. I never said otherwise. More common perhaps are the “swing voters”: people who are undecided, read a lot but mostly don’t post, and end up in a certain position because they like the way someone writes. I doubt that calling opponents “maggots” does much to win them over.

          • Gordon Ingram

            It’s always easy to forget on these forums that there are many more people reading the comments section (I would guess typically at least 5x more, and often much more than that) than posting.

          • Benjamin Edge

            That is the main reason many of us post to counter the misinformation that is spread about GM technology. The fence-sitters and lurkers who are trying to find answers, but aren’t dead set in opposition, can be informed that a lot of the scare stories are untrue or exaggerated.

          • Benjamin Edge

            The author was referring to the bottom-feeding (is that a better term?) journalists and media outlets that publish these stories without proper consideration for their veracity. Not just anyone who the author disagrees with. FYI, mosquitoes and true flies are members of the insect order Diptera. Flies spend their larval stages as maggots, so a little inside humor may have been intended.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Also, aren’t you contradicting yourself a little? You said that you were anti-GM and then changed your mind. Presumably there must have been some conversations with pro-GM people that influenced that conversion in some way or another?

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I doubt more than 1% of Disqus are amenable to having their minds changed. The odds are exceedingly poor that my comments on a particular thread will change anyone’s opinion. I’m thinking 10,000 to 1 would be in the right ballpark. But I often get good material from folk on my own side of the fence.

  • CB1138

    author please remove the Claire Bernish link to the article and replace with link to her bio. The way you have it you are generating hits on her trash article.

  • Gordon Ingram

    Sorry but this post does not impress me at all, I think you can do better. It is rather hysterical in tone
    (e.g. repeatedly describing the hypothetical link as a “conspiracy
    theory”, even though the serious people proposing this are not alleging any conspiracy, but an unintended
    causal link; so this just looks like an attempt to discredit by word
    association). Notably more hysterical, in fact, than this piece by Oliver Tickell (editor of the Ecologist),
    which impressed me with its careful scientific reasoning:

    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987024/pandoras_box_how_gm_mosquitos_could_have_caused_brazils_microcephaly_diasaster.html

    I was also
    disappointed that you don’t tackle the major scientific
    arguments involved, instead focusing on a couple of mistakes apparently
    made by some of those proposing a link (and seemingly not repeated by Tickell, although his map is not very clear). One of these is a pretty trivial
    mistake – 300 km is not a huge distance in a country the size of
    Brazil, and note that it was not 300km directly away from the infection
    center. (By the way, one would not expect the original release site and
    the infection center to coincide exactly, as you seem to imply: clearly there are going to be many more cases in densely
    inhabited areas on the coast, than in the sort of more sparsely
    inhabited inland area where the trial took place.) The other mistake,
    with the year of release, is more serious given that they were 3-4 years
    out, but is not repeated in Tickell’s piece; and again one would not
    expect the release date and epidemic outbreak to coincide exactly. In
    fact, a 2011/12 release date seems to work much better for the GMO
    hypothesis as it gives the transposons time to spread into the female
    population (females being the ones that do the biting).

    Finally, why the false certainty in your heading? You could have made the post a lot more palatable by including one simple word, “probably”. And calling your intellectual opponents “maggots”? Seriously? Get out of the playground, please. You are the one who is really doing the disservice to science reporting.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      I think the main point and why Mrs Wilcoxs writing reflects a certain kind of disdain is that Mrs. Bernish and Mr Tickell are tripping over themselves inorder to indict genetic engineering as the culprit without any good evidence.

      what she said concerning maggots was

      “Don’t just post whatever crap is spewed on the internet because you know it’ll get you a few clicks. It’s dishonest, dangerous, and, frankly, deplorable to treat nonsense as possible truth just to prey upon your audience’s very real fears of an emerging disease. You, with your complete lack of integrity, are maggots feeding on the decay of modern journalism, and I mean that with no disrespect to maggots.”

      And she’s right. People respond to headlines and allegations of scandal, they’re far less likely to pay attention to corrections or retractions. What these articles are doing is painting a picture where it’s all but said “of course it’s the biotech mosquitos that are causing this”, because Bernish and Tickell know full well that a substantial subset of the population doesn’t understand biotechnology and is therefore fearful and suspicious of it. Whether it’s simply a ploy to promote traffic to alt media sites or in furtherance of a ideological opposition to biotech isn’t really important. The damage is done. As the saying goes “falsehood flies while the truth goes limping after it”. Mrs Wilcox piece is critical to that end.

      That gm mosquitos were released in the approximate vicinity of the hardest hit areas isn’t suspicious, it shows that field tests were conducted in/near an area that had higher populations of Ae. aegypti. It’s wet pavements cause rain logic that Mrs Bernish and the redditor use as the main thrust of the “theory”.

      No one want to stop people from asking pertinent, relevant questions. But I have some strong reservations characterizing the assertions put forward by Mrs. Bernish or Mr. Tickell as being in that category.

      • Gordon Ingram

        You are putting words into Tickell’s mouth. He says it is just a hypothesis. So you are basically accusing him of being disingenuous, which is not really a legitimate argumentation tactic (at least in the offline world). Focus on the ball not the player.

        • Chris Preston

          He says it is just a hypothesis.

          It is not a hypothesis, because it doesn’t explain the existing known facts. It is unevidenced speculation and fear-mongering.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I’ve yet to see you discuss any of his claims in detail. Apparently the website he posted his story on is enough to invalidate his argument.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Really? What facts does it not explain then?

          • Chris Preston

            Well we might start with:

            1. There would be no GM mosquitoes left in that locality – even 300 km away.
            2. There is no practical way for the mosquito trait to cause the symptoms observed

          • Gordon Ingram

            I don’t think you’ve been reading this discussion very carefully, have you?
            1. According to Oxitec’s own reports, 100% of the GM mosquitos do not die. The distance is irrelevant really – this is why it annoyed me that Dr Wilcox’s post focused so much on that – as a mutated zika virus could spread from GM mosquitos to humans to non-GM mosquitos, and thence to other humans who have never been anywhere near a GM mosquito in their life. And of course individual humans can go any number of kilometers, taking the zika virus along for the ride.
            2. One of the things the mosquito trait is associated with is stunted growth in larvae. Really, you think that is nothing like microcephaly in foetuses? The idea is that the PiggyBac transposon can transport the relevant genes into the zika virus, which then transports them from the mosquito to human fetal cells. Remember that viruses are often used to help transport modified genes into model organisms, and can also cross the placental barrier.
            I’m not saying this theory, elegant as it is, is true. At a rough guesstimate I would give it about a 5-10% chance of being true. But I think that given the severity of the birth defects and the implications for future GMO trials, even a 1% or a 0.1% chance should lead to some rigorous testing to check that it’s not true. As others – even people on the other side from me – have pointed out, these tests would be pretty simple. So why not check?
            It’s the pro-GM people who are using all the hysterical language here.

          • Chris Preston

            According to Oxitec’s own reports, 100% of the GM mosquitos do not die.

            I’m not saying this theory, elegant as it is, is true. At a rough guesstimate I would give it about a 5-10% chance of being true.

            Perhaps I should let you do the math for yourself. Oxitech’s data is that in controlled laboratory situations it can be up to 5%. So we should use that. The life cycle of Aedes mosquitoes is 2 weeks. So you get 26 generations in a year and 52 in two years. If 500,000 mosquitoes were released and each mated female produces 100 eggs, what is the probability of there being 1 GM mosquito still alive after 2 years?

            What is your estimate of the total number of mosquitoes in Brazil?

            How well do the two numbers match up?

            One of the things the mosquito trait is associated with is stunted growth in larvae. Really, you think that is nothing like microcephaly in foetuses?

            Yes. Show me the evidence that it is the same.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            You’re pre supposing the selflimiting gene used in OX513A if integrated into a human genome would give rise to microcephaly.

            Is there evidence for this?

            I think youre not understanding what the “proGMO” people are saying. No one is against testing. What I’m against is premature pronouncements from news sources with a well documented history of demonizing biotechnology. I feel the goal is to poison the well of public opinion further against a potential solution to controlling this public health crisis.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I have seen people in the discussion on this page write that it’s not worth testing. The OP also implies that it is not worth testing, since she implies (in her blog post title) that she is certain that GM mosquitos did not start the outbreak. One simple word – “probably” – inserted into the title would have made me a lot less animated in this discussion!

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Actually, the PiggyBac system moves transposons into DNA at specific sequence sites. Zika has a single strand RNA genome, and thus it is impossible for the PiggyBac transposon to be inserted. See my update; I would have addressed Tickall’s red herring the first time around, but I did not see his post until after mine was published.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Fair enough. He didn’t publish his article until after you published your post, so you couldn’t have been expected to read it! It was just that I first saw the GMO theory in his article, then when I posted the link on Facebook a friend directed me here for a refutation, and thus I was disappointed to see not much actual bioscience here that could have refuted his theory (he doesn’t repeat the error about the date of the study and I don’t think he repeats the error about the location either, although his map is not very clear so it’s hard to tell).
            If you had originally included the comments you added later, I would probably have been convinced very quickly that the theory was wrong, and thus I would not nearly have been nearly so hostile to your post. However, I still think including a little healthy scientific doubt in your headline would have been a good idea, and I still think calling people “maggots” is a bit out of line. You are not going to win over many people in the anti-GMO camp, or indeed many neutrals, with that kind of attitude.
            I’ll post my other reflections on the arguments here shortly. Have a good day!

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            For the record, I wasn’t calling anyone who might question the connection maggots – that particularly harsh line was reserved for the journalists which continued the story uncritically. Journalists are supposed to check facts with an expert before they publish. In this case, they couldn’t even be arsed to check the details of location or release date, let alone the science. Tickalls in particular should never have published an article without asking a geneticist – *any* geneticist – whether it makes sense for the transposon to enter the Zika genome. The way I see it, the articles in AntiMedia, The Daily Fail, etc are, at best, extreme journalistic malpractice, and at worst, published with the malicious intent to fearmonger. I have no patience for either. If they insist on trash reporting, they get referred to as creatures which relish in garbage.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Look, you can call them whatever you want to really. Free speech and all that. But I wonder what you’re trying to achieve with that kind of language? Or is it just an emotional reaction?

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            It is an emotional reaction: anger, with a sprinkle of disgust. These are people that should know better, and I think *do* know better—they’re just ethically ok with manipulating their audience’s fears to falsely attack what they don’t like. I find their willingness to deceive and use their readers revolting and repulsive.

            For example: Tickell blatantly manipulates his readers from the get-go when he quotes Oliveira Melo et al. as if that article suggested a genetic change resulting in an increase in virulence was the only way to explain the outbreak when the actual quote lists THREE OTHER POSSIBILITIES which “cannot be ruled out”. I further believe that Tickell very intentionally called the non-peer-reviewed op-ed by Ho a “2001 review article by Dr Mae Wan Ho” to make it sound more official, counting on his audience assuming that a “review article” is a scientific journal article. He didn’t cite, let alone actually contact and ask, anyone at Oxitec or any other scientists about the plausibility of his hypothesis. Since he calls himself a journalist, and doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a science background, he should at least have taken the time to contact a single outside source and get their thoughts on whether it really was a “credible hypothesis”, or at least that his bullet points were physically possible. Had he done so, he would have learned that a single stranded 10.8 kb RNA virus couldn’t possibly have received an 8.4kb double stranded DNA transposon. And why didn’t he follow journalistic protocol or fact-check his piece? Because he wasn’t really trying to help by offering a credible explanation for the current outbreak. He wanted to use people’s fear of the current outbreak to push his personal anti-GM agenda. That’s also why he hasn’t issued a correction to any of his points even though they’re demonstrably false—like the fact that we have viral sequences for the outbreak which do not have any mosquito DNA in them whatsoever.

            I take my duty to be factual and accurate very seriously, as a writer and a scientist. What Tickell did, and what the others did by reporting without any form of fact check or expert opinion, is morally and ethically reprehensible. Let’s say, for example, that someone posts on a forum that they overheard Donald Trump say he shot MLK. Can you imagine if the Daily Mail simply published an article with the headline “Donald Trump shot Martin Luther King, says witness”, and then went on to quote from the post without even so much as checking whether there’s any evidence that Donald was in the same city, or for that matter, that the poster was ever within earshot of Donald? When these posts claimed Oxitec mosquitoes could have been the cause, they are essentially accusing Oxitec of murdering children, either by accident or on purpose. Shouldn’t that kind of accusation be tempered with a cursory investigation into its credibility before splashing it in big, bold letters? And will any of these sites retract their articles or put in a big disclaimer that they willingly hyped up fears to get pageviews or push their own agendas? I’m guessing they won’t.

            So if you ask me, there are a lot of other words that could be used. Maggots was downright kind compared to what they probably deserve.

          • dachshundsrule

            As an interested lay-person only, I wanted to thank you and Mr. Ingram and all the others for a fascinating discussion. It’s this discussion that illustrates why the general public fears GM organisms, I think–it is complicated to say the least, and the average online Joe doesn’t have time to follow this type of research. They depend on others to do that for them, myself included. I would like to mention, however, that one thing that the public doesn’t like about the science community is it’s tendency toward snobbishness–they see it as a personal attack and tend to recoil without actually looking at the data. I promise I’m not attacking you personally, I’m trying to convey what I’m seeing happen between the science group and the public. Again, I thank you all for a fascinating discussion!

          • Gordon Ingram

            What a polite comment. I wish everyone who commented on blogs wrote like you!

          • dachshundsrule

            Why, thank you sir. IMHO, it’s pitched emotions that contribute to misunderstanding on both sides. I’m also a Mom, so I constantly play the mediator–perhaps that’s where it comes from. Cheers!

          • Paulo Andrade

            Thanks, Chris, for your perfect distinction between a hypothesis and simple speculation.

    • Chris Preston

      It is rather hysterical in tone (e.g. repeatedly describing the hypothetical link as a “conspiracy theory”, even though the serious people proposing this are not alleging any conspiracy, but an unintended causal link; so this just looks like an attempt to discredit by word association). Notably more hysterical, in fact, than this piece by Oliver Tickell (editor of the Ecologist), which impressed me with its careful scientific reasoning

      So your evidence that it is not a conspiracy theory is a conspiracy theory article from The Ecologist?

      You see to be forgetting one key point here. There is zero evidence to support Tickell’s speculations and plenty of evidence, as indicated in the article above, that the effects of the ZIKV have been seen before in countries where there have been no releases of GM mosquitoes.

      I was also disappointed that you don’t tackle the major scientific arguments involved, instead focusing on a couple of mistakes apparently made by some of those proposing a link (and seemingly not repeated by Tickell, although his map is not very clear). One of these is a pretty trivial mistake – 300 km is not a huge distance in a country the size of Brazil

      You seem to have missed the bits about the GM mosquitoes being male, that male mosquitoes don’t bite people, that the micro-encephalitis had been observed previously associated with the ZIKZ virus, I could go on. But yes the mistakes are important. Because the GM mosquitoes would have died out in that area in 2012. The argument that 300 km is not a large distance in a large country is a particularly nonsensical one to make with respect to mosquitoes moving. Mosquitoes frankly don’t care how big Brazil is.

      • Dominick Dickerson

        Just to prepare you even oxitec states that a incredibly small percent of its gm mosquitos that are released are female. I think on the order of 1-3% if I’m recalling correctly.

        Whether that is relevant or not has yet to be determined. But Mrs Bernish and Mr Tickell certain want their readers to believe it is.

        • Gordon Ingram

          I think 1-3% of over 500000 released mosquitos in 2011-12 (and god knows how many millions in the future, if Oxitec get their way), is certainly relevant, yes Dominick. And add to that the females that survive in the next generation because of immunity (antibiotic-induced or otherwise).

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Sorry I may have been unclear.

            The relevance I was referring to was whether or not being bit by a female GE mosquito is relevant. I’ve seen no indication or evidence that it is.

            I feel from reading his piece, Mr. Tickell supposes that it does.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I’ll try again.
            Don’t you think that it might be a good idea to test whether being bitten by a GM female mosquito infected with zika has any health effects, compared with being bitten by a non-GM female mosquito infected with zika, before releasing GM mosquitos (including a relatively tiny, but still absolutely significant, number of females), into the wild?
            I think most people would answer that question with a yes.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Besides the fact at you clearly feel gm technology is some kind of boogeyman, what indication is there that the mosquito being genetically modified would pose an elevated risk to human health? It kind of presupposes a problem doesn’t it?

            I get you’re arguing from an abundance of precaution and a desire to be thorough, but where is the line?

            I think our difference in opinion comes down to tolerance for risk. You seem to be a more risk averse person atleast in the context of gm technology. I don’t share those fears.

          • Gordon Ingram

            It’s nothing to do with risk aversion. (I’m the psychologist here, mate!) I am not a very risk-averse person at all. It’s to do with getting annoyed by people who are open to answering certain kinds of question, and completely closed to answering others. It’s to do with aversion to the black-and-white thinking that ignores the messy reality of science, where mistakes and untested assumptions happen all the time. Yes, I have a deep philosophical aversion to GM. But I also genuinely think that the risks get downplayed because of the black-and-white thinking on the part of its proponents – because they are thinking of science as something ideal, that they can have total control over, rather than something real, that they can’t control completely.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Thank you for that explanation.

            As I’ve noted I’m not opposed to science answering these questions. I don’t really see many people claiming “don’t test it” either.
            What I do see are people who have some serious criticisms of how those asking the questions are doing so, through sloppy irresponsible journalism.

            I see people that are concerned that these articles spreading on social media aren’t being evaluated on their merits, but are being accepted and spread simply because there are people like yourself who oppose genetic engineering. Not saying that’s your only motivation, you seem far more reasonable than some others here, but let’s not kid ourselves that the people promulgating this theory throughout social media are as leveled headed and critical as you are.

          • Gordon Ingram

            There’s also the issue of informed consent. Since risk assessments were not properly publicized for these (and other similar) trials –

            http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Oxitec_unansweredQs_fin.pdf

            – how can local inhabitants who happened to be bitten by a released mosquito be said to have given their informed consent to their study? What Oxitec have done may not be strictly speaking illegal, but it is clearly unethical by modern scientific standards.

            (Informed consent is one area where I can bring my own scientific expertise to bear: believe me, I – along with >90% of psychologists – think about it *a lot*.)

          • Dominick Dickerson

            so were they supposed to go door to door and get every individuals consent? That seems like a sure fire way to stymie research progress.

            I’m fairly certain the appropriate governmental bodies serve as reasonable proxies for granting informed consent. Did Oxitec fail to get approvals from those bodies for their research?

          • Gordon Ingram

            It has certainly been alleged that no, they did not follow the proper procedures:

            http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Oxitec_unansweredQs_fin.pdf (pp. 17-20)

            “so were they supposed to go door to door and get every individuals consent?”

            In fact, in Brazil they did go door-to-door (p. 20) … to *promote* their research. The risk assessment was never published, and local media reported that many residents were unaware of what was going on with the mosquitos.

            This link discusses Oxitec’s Cayman Islands trial:

            http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2010/11/gm-mosquito-trial-strains-ties-gates-funded-project

            “Scientists have long debated how and when to carry out the first test release of transgenic mosquitoes
            designed to fight human disease—a landmark study they imagined might
            trigger fierce resistance from opponents of genetic engineering. A
            stream of papers and reports has argued that a release of any
            genetically modified mosquito should be preceded by years of careful
            groundwork, including an exhaustive public debate to win the hearts and
            minds of the local population. But little of that has been done in the
            trial in the Cayman Islands, Alphey [chief scientific officer of Oxitec,
            the company responsible for both this trial and the one in Brazil] says
            because the government didn’t deem it necessary.”

            Sounds like a really irresponsible scientists. Like doctors, most responsible scientists believe we are ethically bound to uphold a code of conduct beyond what is simply *legal*.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I mean we have people alleging that the mosquitos released in one place managed to spread or in the case of tickells piece a gene moved horizontally and then spread to all those areas hundreds of kilometers away and presumably the rest of the 22 countries where Zika has been reported.

            How many people need to be asked inorder for “informed consent” to be reached?

            So oxitec had permission and informed the appropriate authorities about their research and their plan to conduct field trials? And do governments act as proxies to their citizens?

            Its certainly not the most democratic way to go about it and it’s certainly not a way to bolster good pr, but that doesn’t mean it’s intrinsically unethical or irresponsible. I think that’s a subjective matter that perhaps deserves its own debate.

          • Paulo Andrade

            GeneWatch is wrong: Oxitec and the University of São Paulo, its partner in the field trials in Juazeiro, did follow all the legal and ethical steps and submitted the needed documents to CTNBio, the Brazilian GMO authority. The population in both quartiers form the city of Juazeiro was engaged in the full discussion of the project (field released) and there was absolute nothing hidden from the public. As a former CTNBio member, I was one of the reviewers of Oxitec´s request for the field release and could check all this information both in the documents and in field visits in 2011 and 2012

          • Gordon Ingram

            The question is not whether the risk assessment was submitted to CTNBio. The document cited by GeneWatch alleges that CTNBio kept some (exactly how much is unclear, for obvious reasons) information confidential from the local public. As the author notes, without actual fieldwork it is difficult to ascertain how much locals knew.

            Since you say that “absolutely nothing” was kept from the public, does that mean that CTNBio rejected, for example, Margareth Capurro’s request to keep the release sites confidential?

            http://esst.eu/wp-content/uploads/LousiaCastroMasterThesis.pdf

            (see pp. 70-72)

          • Paulo Andrade

            The release sites were not confidential, just the opposite: the releases were fully advertised on the TV and radio stations, discussed with the population and held open thoughout the whole experiment. There was nothing confidential, not even the dossier submitted by Oxitec to CTNBio

          • dachshundsrule

            So, I have to ask, as I haven’t seen a reference to it yet: have the females been modified as well as the males? If so, wouldn’t both parents then carry the lethal gene, making it even less likely that their offspring would survive to reproduce? Thank you both for the discussion, I’m learning a lot!

          • Gordon Ingram

            Both are modified. The gene is dominant so it shouldn’t make too much difference if the GM mosquitos mate with each other or with normals. But sometimes having two copies of a dominant gene does increase the effect.

          • Paulo Andrade

            Both male and female mosquitoes carry the lethal dominant gene. Both will die after 4 to 7 days in a regular, tropical or subtropical city. The offspring also dies before reaching the pupal stage. Tetracycline concentration in the environment never reaches the threshold value to ensure survival. You are therefore right.

          • Paulo Andrade

            Gordon, as I commented above: GM mosquitoes die 4 to 7 days after being released in the environment. Tetracycline concentrations in the environment never reach the threshold value to ensure survival. Even if some female mosquitoes bite an infected person, they die before the virus has the chance to complete its cycle in the insect (usually from 8 to 14 days). Therefore, irrespective of how many millions of GM insects are released, they are irrelevant to virus evolution and to the maintenance of dengue, zika or chikungunya, just the opposite: solid data suggest they are useful in the control of vector populations. I suggest you should carefully read the risk assessment document from the Brazilian National Biosafety Authority (linked in the original post for Wilcox) to have a deeper insight on the biology of this GM mosquito variety.

        • Chris Preston

          Indeed in controlled laboratory experiments, a small number up to 5% of offspring survive. However, in the wild this is likely to be less as these offspring will be less competitive than the wild types. They also carry the dominant gene trait, so of their offspring a maximum of 5% might survive. So over time, the genetic trait will drive itself to extinction. Really in only about 10 generations. The life span of the Aedes mosquito is about 2 weeks. So how many generations were there between 2012 and 2015?

          • Dominick Dickerson

            A case in why it’s important to understand some basic biology concerning the lifecycle of Ae. aegypti and the nature of what “gene drive” technologies do.

            Thanks Chris for your clarification.

      • Gordon Ingram

        “Mosquitoes frankly don’t care how big Brazil is.”
        No, but given that Brazil is such a big country you need some alternative explanation of why the epidemic broke out so close to the release zone. The same species of mosquito is present over most of Latin America.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          i mean if this is true, why aren’t we seeing a corresponding increase in microcephaly or pandemic outbreaks in the other places oxitec did field trials. They’ve also conducted field trials in the Cayman Islands and in Malaysia.

          If the release of this new GE mosquito is at the root of the outbreaks wouldn’t we see the same patterns in these other places?

          • Gordon Ingram

            Zika is not currently undergoing active transmission in those areas.

            http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

            I feel you are not doing justice to Tickell’s arguments, he joins all the dots in a very careful and logical manner. It’s an elegant theory – though doubtless, like all theories, at least partially wrong – and I think it deserves testing.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            as I told you, I recommended PCR analysis even before I saw tickells piece if for no other reason than to put the horizontal transmission theory to bed.

            If those tests are done and it’s revealed the I’m incorrect in my assessment I have no problem revising my opinion. But till then I’m sticking with the null hypothesis.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well I can agree with that. The ones I have a problem with are those who say that the possibility shouldn’t be tested for, or even raised.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Gordon I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading up and I’ve discovered some other pretty substantial problems with key parts of Tickells piece.

            Both he and Clair Bernish are confusing two distinct vector control systems being developed by Oxitec.

            Both articles go to great lengths to highlight the tetracycline connection as being a key piece of their theory, both claiming that tetricycline present in the environment may have inadvertently overrode the safety controls. There’s just one rather substantive glaring issue. The gm mosquito released in Brazil (OX513A) doesn’t use tetracycline, thats a different mosquito strain OX3688, which is Aedes albopictus. Not only are they two different GE event and two different vector control systems, it’s two entirely different species. OX3688 has yet to under go field trials, it has never been released.

            Instead of doing his due diligence, Tickell basically just lifted that whole section from Bernishes piece. He didn’t investigate, he didn’t fact check.

            He could have simply gone to oxitecs website as I did and read this page and follow the links at the bottom.http://www.oxitec.com/health/our-products/

            But he didn’t. Now perhaps its simply an innocent error, but if he can’t bother to get those facts correct why should I or anyone else put stock into the rest of his piece?

  • Dominick Dickerson

    For anyone interested in more quality reporting like Mrs. Wilcox piece, I’ld check out Al Jazeera.

    They have a great Q/A that really explores some interesting facets concerning the spread of Zika virus and brought up some great points I haven’t seen before.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/threat-zika-qa-160131093108840.html

    And there’s no love loss between aljazeera and genetic engineering/biotech companies (atleast from their opinion section), but their reporting overall tends toward being solid objective journalism.

    Perhaps Mrs. Burnish and the journalists at the daily mail and mirror can take notes as to what quality journalism looks like.

  • Anonymous

    The mainstream media is blaming the birth defects on the Zika virus WITH NO EVIDENCE en-masse, yet if someone dares to suspect a genetically modified insect that has genes from herpes and e-coli (herpes can cause birth defects in babies, including microcephaly), well, we’re called “conspiracy theorists”. Who exactly are the tin-foil hatters? The media is just as guilty here of making an unsubstantiated connection.

    The difference between blaming a virus and blaming a GMO Mosquito? The GMO Mosquito is made by a biotech company that is financially linked to some of the media’s favorite billionaires, especially one named Bill Gates. So, there is your motivation for calling people “tin foil hatters” and “conspiracy theorists” while the mass media gets away with just as gross a violation of logic.

  • Shiva Murti

    I am not a hater, I, like many people do not trust the people that say they know. Look at where the people who “know” have brought the planet

    to. there is good reason to doubt, look at the failings. The entire skepticism might keep someone from failing, it make no difference if one is a scientist or politician or religious leader. I ask as a side note, how many of you scientists are eating GMO? We the people of this planet are better off doubting you than trusting you.

  • brian

    Excellent article. Unfortunately this isn’t going to cause the Daily Fail to print a correction. As long as they can cut-and-paste something from reddit and get hits to their site they frankly don’t care what damage they do.

  • Anonymous Person

    Global warming caused by humans is a myth, This report uses “Climate change” instead becuz the global warming people lost and switched to that catch all phrase & if a planet has a climate then that climate will change it doesn’t matter if there is life there or not.

  • dachshundsrule

    Not that I believe the hype about the GM mozzies causing the outbreak, but I do have a question of anyone that’s particularly research-oriented. Does anyone know what genes were added to make the mozzie flourescent? I read the flyer from Oxitec, and they stated they had made them “glow” (paraphrasing mine) so they could track potential offspring. I’ve read also that there was another known case of sexually-transmitted Zika in a researcher that had just returned from equatorial Africa to his home in Colorado (2008) and then passed it to his partner. Any possible link between the male mozzie gene change, and the passing of the virus sexually? Could that be the connection that the conspiracy folks are seeing, since the spike in cases of microcephaly seems to coincide with the outbreak of Zika? Microcephaly is usually a pretty rare genetic defect, right? Anyone that might be able to at least point me in the right direction so I can research it would be appreciated.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      The gene used in OX513A that causes flourescence is the DsRed reporter gene.

      As far as microcephaly, it’s been reported that other flaviviruses can cause microcephaly.

      And as far as a gene change being linked to sexual transmission I would say no. Until recently Zika virus was a relatively innocuous virus restricted to parts of equatorial Africa and Asia. It’s very likely that sexual transmission was always possible but due to the limited reporting it simply wasn’t recognized until now. It could be something as simple as in places where Zika is endemic people end up getting it before the onset of sexual maturity so by the time they’re having sex and making babies they’re immune from childhood exposure.

      But really great questions

      • dachshundsrule

        Thank you for responding. I had read that at some point in 2014, they noticed a change in the protein structure that seemed to allow the virus to replicate more rapidly (and thus increasing the viral load?) but I wasn’t sure if that corresponded with the beginning of the increase of microcephaly, and if the changes could have also been responsible for it’s ability to affect the infant. Wouldn’t the exposure time have to be fairly narrow, since the infant’s brain and neural structures are forming around the 5 week mark in gestation? Since the cases of microcephaly seem to be concentrated close to the coast, and they know it can be sexually transmitted, I’d kinda lean toward it being the African strain being carried over, maybe that accounts for a lack of immunity, since the majority of the earlier cases seem to have been the Asian strain. LOL, sorry to bombard you, I have always been fascinated with epidemiology, but no time to pursue it. Thanks again!

        • Dominick Dickerson

          Epidemiology is kindof outside my wheel house, but there are some pretty knowledgable people posting here that may be able to better answer your questions. I’m just a research minded individual.

          I’ld check the aljazeera link I posted earlier they had some details concerning the route of transmission. Nothing very technical but I may have more information.

          But I’ll look into some of your questions and see what experts are saying.

          • dachshundsrule

            I’ll do that, thank you for the link! While I do believe that conspiracies exist in our society, I’m not sure this is one of them, and panicking pregnant women should definitely be avoided. I’m also a bit skeptical of GM organisms being released into the environment, but I’ve also experienced tropical disease first-hand–a bout of dengue–and any headway we can make toward controlling mozzie populations is a step in the right direction, IMHO. Most of all, I’m a fan of truth, and think that unfounded fears need to be put to bed. Thanks again for the link!

          • Dominick Dickerson

            No problem, I think our exchange here can highlight how people with differences in opinion can still have a conversation without it devolving to the typical nastiness that’s all too often seen in comment sections like these.

    • mosquitoman

      red flourescent protein (or dsred isolated from coral)

      the researcher wasn’t working with GM mosquitoes. No connection.

      He was collecting malaria mosquitoes in Senegal when he got sick with Zika. When he got home to Colorado he passed it to his wife probably through intercourse. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/04/sex-after-field-trip-yields-scientific-first

      • dachshundsrule

        Roger that, I apologize if I appeared to connect the two. I should have specified that I had read of the two strains, African and Asian–the Colorado case seems to be of the African. I had had the question put to me in reference to to the flourescent gene-thing potentially (inadvertently) triggering the increase in the microcephaly cases (I was trying to figure out the reasoning behind blaming the GM mozzies) I am strictly an interested lay-person, but love a medical mystery, and this one is a puzzler. Something has enabled the virus to affect the neurological development of these infants, in an otherwise innocuous infection. Thanks for the link, I’ll go read it soon.

        • mosquitoman

          I think the theory goes that the piggybac vector carrying the rfp and lethal gene jumped into the virus. And when this new virus isolate gets into a pregnant woman it crosses the placenta and expression of the lethal gene causes the microcephaly in the offspring.
          Its quite a stretch of the imagine that this could happen. It would be very easy to test (PCR) the viral isolates from patients to look for this jumping event, but the chances of it being there are so low nobody can be arsed doing it.
          A more parsimonious explanation would be that the (Asian-type) Zika virus has newly spread into Brazil and people there have no immunity to it having never been exposed as kids. The neurological effects are a normal side effect of infection in a non immune population. The fact that neurological defects have been observed in some Pacific Islands (NB with no exposure to GM mosquitoes) that also have recent Zika outbreaks would support this theory. Which is the line taken by WHO.
          There are quite a few insect borne viruses that cause abortions and malformation in offspring in non immune populations. check out Schmallenberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmallenberg_virus which ripped through Northern Europe a few years ago.

          • dachshundsrule

            Thanks again for the links, you guys have given me several reading assignments and I appreciate it. I think it’s this very thing that sets off the panic in these situations–people just don’t understand how complicated virology can be, or how different genes act and so forth. I became interested in how genes express back when I was breeding paint horses and had to beware of the “Lethal White” gene–very cautious of which bloodlines to breed, since certain ones bred to carriers would produce offspring that would die soon after birth. Even now I can’t claim anything more than rank amateur, so it’s not surprising that people who are just dipping into the news cycle and seeing this are prone to jump to conclusions. Thanks for all your help, folks!

    • Dan Keown

      The thing is (and this article does nothing to even suggest this) is that:
      1. zika virus and microcephaly have not been causally linked in this case
      2. if zika virus is the cause then this seems to be a newly pathogenic strain (microcephaly and zika are rarely assoiated)
      3. EPIDEMIOLOGICALLY speaking there may be a link between the GM mosquitoes and microcephaly in time and space.
      The ridiculous thing about this article is she is confusing epidemiology and conspiracy?!

      • dachshundsrule

        At this point in time, I’m personally not ruling anything out, but I’m not convinced that the relationship between microcephaly and zika is any less likely than the one with GM mozzies. I love a good conspiracy myself, LOL! However, at this point in time, and imho, controlling the mozzie population takes precedence simply because it would solve the epidemic AND help take out the GM mozzies at the same time. Neurological consequences of flavivirus infection is well-known–as I can personally attest–and the one we are discussing was observed to change it’s protein coat back in 2014. That alone helps me lean toward the virus being responsible for this horrible situation. Believe me, if there’s any blame to be spread around, I’ll be glad to do so; I just think we don’t know enough at this point to start slinging arrows when we’re not even sure of the target. The possibility of the GM critters being to blame should not be ignored, I just think we should concentrate on controlling the outbreak first. I promise I’ll look at the link you gave in another comment, thank you for sharing it.

        • Paulo Andrade

          The evidences for a connection between zika and microcephaly are staggering. Let us wait for them one more month.

  • Thomas Baldwin

    The Zika virus genome is sequenced and it’s only ~10 kb. There are no transposons. If there were, it would be obvious.

  • Rob Jones

    Since the idea that mosquitoes genetically modified to cause their next generation to die off may be responsible for deformities in human offspring is quite understandable – if not ultimately supported by the facts – your childish mockery, images and insults regarding “conspiracy theories” are going to convince nobody of anything except your own immaturity, and in fact cast a rather suspect light on your motives in writing this blatantly biased excuse for an article.

    Even if your main point is essentially correct, the way you have gone about it is quite frankly an embarrassment to scientific journalism.

    • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

      Since the idea that mosquitoes genetically modified to cause their next generation to die off may be responsible for deformities in human offspring is quite understandable

      If you find that type of BS “understandable” you are a fool and you deserve to be mocked. Nothing else needs saying and quite frankly because you are an adult you shouldn’t need to be administered the truth with a spoonful of sugar.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      “embarrassment to scientific journalism” ?

      Sounds like you wanted some false balance, which has no place in journalism let alone science journalism.

      There is no evidence at all to support the theory that OX513A is responsible for either the Zika outbreak in general or the seemingly apparent uptick in microcephaly cases.

      The “hypothesis” isn’t reasonable and it deserves to be mocked.

      As an aside what’s your position on GM technology in general?

  • Bixbyte

    The Oxitec study has Conflict of Interest written all over the place.
    And your blog is Far from scientific with your tin foil hat cat.

    • ostracion

      Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Snarky graphics negate any and all validity to evidence-based points of argumentation!

      • Bixbyte

        There is No Evidence either way.
        And that is what is troubling to real science.

        • ostracion

          Either way? So there’s no evidence that the GM mosquitoes are NOT responsible for Zika and microcephaly? Surely you aren’t making the case for a bit of the ol’ argumentum ad ignoratium fallacy?

          • Bixbyte

            I said, There is No Evidence either way. L’ignoranza è beatitudine

  • Hans Guerth

    After reading the article and perusing the tremendous comment section a word from Hilaire Belloc comes to mind:

    But Scientists, who ought to know,
    Assure us that it must be so …
    Oh! let us never, never doubt
    What nobody is sure about!

    • dachshundsrule

      ROFL! How appropriate!

  • Gordon Ingram

    I thought that some of those who were arguing with me yesterday (and others) might be interested in my reflections on how the argument went. While I obviously still have grave concerns about the ethics and safety of GMOs, I am now fairly convinced that this particular theory is false. What particularly convinced me were two things: firstly an article that Karl Haro von Mogel posted to me on Twitter:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986768/
    and secondly Christie’s updates to her blog post above, which a friend pointed me to on Facebook. Somehow in the course of the whole argument no-one had managed to point out to me the rather relevant fact that zika is an RNA virus, and thus Tickell’s model is biologically almost impossible.

    Anyway here are my reflections (originally posted on Facebook, so apologies for describing you all in the third person; and also some of the spaces seem to have gone missing somehow in the copy and paste, and I don’t have time to fix them!)…

    I found that there were a couple of lines of defence I had to get
    through before I got to the real scientific evidence against the theory.
    The first line of defence was to argue that since the theory was originally posted on Reddit’s conspiracy theory thread, it couldn’t possibly be true. I was frustrated by the blatantly unscientific nature of this argument and pointed out that I had originally come upon the theory in Tickell’s article above, and was impressed by the elegance of his argumentation (as I still am, although I now realise that it is a little TOO elegant!). People then pointed out that Tickell relies on the work of “cranks” such as Mae-Won Ho. I then realised that I had been taking it on trust that his scientific-looking citations were to published
    articles in proper journals (he describes them as “a review article”,
    etc.). In fact, they were published on Mae-Won Ho’s own, rather dodgy,
    website. So at that point I lost a lot of trust in the theory. BUT I
    still wanted to know the scientific reasons why it was untrue. This was
    much harder.

    The second line of defence was to rely on what I might call “defensive myths”, which I think originally resulted from exaggerations in Oxitec’s PR spin. The two main ones were to say that the mosquitos couldn’t bite anyone, because they were all male; and that they were sterile so their genes wouldn’t persist in the population. It turns out that these ideas are both untrue. The automaticsorting process used by Oxitec before releasing GM mosquitos was inefficient, and up to 1-2% of females were mixed in with the males. Thesorting was apparently finished off by hand (in the Cayman Islands where only a few thousand were released; I don’t know what happened in Brazil). There are obvious questions about the scalability of this solution to the release of several million GM mosquitos – as the companyare planning – supported by poorly trained local staff. Moreover the
    mosquitos are not actually sterile – this appears to be a kind of
    shorthand designed to reassure ordinary people by presenting them with anice clean adjective. The actual design is that they work by producing non-viable offspring; but in fact, up to 5% of offsping survive to sexual maturity in normal laboratory conditions, and up to 15% in the presence of antibiotics in their diet (discovered by one test in which
    the larvae turned out to have been fed commercial cat food, which does not exactly inspire much confidence in Oxitec’s processes).

    My main conclusion from the first part of this argument is that science
    communicators need to resist the temptation to argue from authority.
    This is not an effective tactic when confronted with an opponent who
    believes in different sources of authority from you. It just contributes
    to the impression of scientists’ arrogance that many people have. It as
    if I were to respond to them with quotes from Foucault or Feyerabend.
    They wouldn’t be impressed, and why should they be? What people need to do is sit down and patiently explain the scientific reasons why an idea is false. If you don’t have time, can’t be bothered, or don’t know the real scientific reasons yourself, just bite your tongue and don’t get involved in the argument.

    My main conclusion from the second part of the argument is that biotech companies should avoid exaggerating in an attempt to appeal to ordinary people’s cognitive biases (“They won’t bite”; “They’re sterile”, etc.). This is a natural thing to do in order to placate someone’s fears – we all do it at times,including in domestic contexts! – but it will only contribute to a lossof trust further down the line when the truth comes out. It might seem more confusing and less convincing to tell people things like “We are using this particular ‘jumping gene’ because it turns out to be much more stable in mosquito DNA than in fruitfly DNA”, or “The transposon ishighly unlikely to get incorporated into viral DNA, because it is nearly as big as a whole virus”. But it is the truth and it is what local people have a right to hear ahead of time, so that they can make their own informed decisions about whether a trial should go ahead in their area.

    • mem_somerville

      Well, it’s nice to see that you have a better grasp of reality now. Glad we could help.

      • Gordon Ingram

        I guess you missed that in that post, I was trying to help you…

        • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

          I suppose the real question you need to ask yourself Gordon is why you are so gullible. As a psychologist, why were you taken in by Tickell’s argument? With the most elementary due diligence, which should have taken you no more than 10 minutes, you could have ascertained for yourself that

          (a) The Ecologist is a crackpot publication that promotes anti-vaxxer memes, plane crash conspiracy theories etc ..
          (b) Tickell is an absolutely bonkers editor who prolifically writes and publishes garbage etc …
          (c) his chief cite, Mae Won Ho, is a fruitloop who promotes water memory therapy, homeopathy etc …

          You say:

          The first line of defence was to argue that since the theory was originally posted on Reddit’s conspiracy theory thread, it couldn’t possibly be true. I was frustrated by the blatantly unscientific nature of this argument

          Science and skepticism take place in the real world and in the real world we only have “x” amount of time to investigate “xyz”. It is reasonable, logical and scientific to use a sort of Bayesian heuristic to sort, prioritise and file 13 what is in “xyz”. If you disagree, I have a bag of doggy doo on my porch that I know to be the second coming of Jesus. Prove me wrong!!!

          • Gordon Ingram

            I’m not quite sure why I’m still engaging with you, since you’ve admitted that you just like arguing for arguing’s sake 😛
            But don’t worry, I am asking myself that question in my head. I am not asking it of myself in writing, in a comment on someone else’s blog post. That would be a bit strange. When I comment on other people’s blog posts, it seems more productive to ask questions of other people.
            I suppose the real question you need to ask yourself, “CaptainMoonlight”, is do you believe that all the participants on the pro-GMO side of this side acted perfectly reasonably, and communciated perfectly effectively? If your answer to that is “yes” you are far more deluded than I was in thinking that there might be a 5-10% chance that Tickell was correct (I was never “taken in” by it as you allege: as I always stated here, I thought it was an outlandish, but just possible, hypothesis).

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Gordon, you said Tickell’s argument was “elegant”. You used that very word on at least two occasions, as I recall. I have no training in the requisite sciences but I smelt a rat straight away.

            And of course I do not think that everyone on the pro-GM side in the argument “acted perfectly reasonably, and communicated perfectly effectively”. The real world doesn’t work like that and I can’t imagine why anyone would expect otherwise. Look, I get things wrong just like everyone else. When I do I chastise myself, wipe the egg off my face and fess up. I don’t try to find excuses.

          • Gordon Ingram

            You “smelled a rat” because you’re pro-GMO. I didn’t because I’m not. Cognitive biases. I’ve never denied that I have them.
            Why do you think I’m just making excuses? Probably at some psychological level I am, sure, but that doesn’t negate the point that my “education” could have happened a lot more quickly and more efficiently without all the ranting, ad hominem comments, and arguments from authority on the pro-GM side.
            Not everyone has the patience or the time to sit through a whole day of argument like I did. Hell, I wouldn’t normally but I had a class cancelled due to an environmental emergency here, and I had my Disqus set to email me replies automatically (which I’ve just corrected, thank God!). It sounds ludicrous to say that the GMO lobby can increase acceptance of their technology by putting the responsibility on the public to educate themselves. Yet that’s basically what you’re saying here. Or is it because I’m an educated academic that I’m somehow supposed to be “different”? As has been made pretty obvious here, I know less about genomics than a typical first-year biology student!

          • mem_somerville

            You also have a funny recall of facts. I have created a storify for you, because you don’t seem to remember how this all transpired. https://storify.com/mem_somerville/yeah-i-m-an-asshole

            I think you should take a few days off, cool down, and then review the twitter stream in order of how it happened. You came in, guns blazing, ad hom, and did everything conspiracy theorists do.

            I’m glad we were able to help you with that.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Yeah, you win Mary. I’m just a dirty stinking outgroup member, not fit to talk about your pure shiny science. Happy now?

          • mem_somerville

            Don’t be down on yourself–you can improve in the future, I’m sure. You won’t be so credulous the next time.

            That’s what really matters.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Wow, just had a look at that storify. I’m actually flattered that our little debate so much to you. Glad I could be such a big part of your life. Adios!

          • mem_somerville

            I am really glad to have been able to initiate this whole thing. You came here because of my tweet, right?

            It’s all part of an ecosystem. I’m so glad I was able to lead you to the facts. Don’t thank me, it’s a public service.

          • Gordon Ingram

            No, actually I had already read Christie’s post before I saw your tweet. But I suppose I *could* have come here because of your tweet. I’ll give you that.

        • mem_somerville

          So, those of us who wanted you to stop spreading misinformation got you to do so. But we need help.

          Oh, please, ride in on a white horse and save us all.

          • Gordon Ingram

            You didn’t get me to do anything Mary. Other people, who took s different approach, did.

          • mem_somerville

            Ah, more fairy tales. Some day we’ll break you of that habit too. There’s time.

    • http://www.biofortified.org Karl Haro von Mogel

      *bows*
      I understand the part about communication. When dealing with myths promulgated on the internet (of which there are countless examples) it often takes too long to fully analyze each aspect of the myth and debunk it in its entirety because if that was done then a lot of time gets consumed for each one. Hence, scientists and “pro-GMO” individuals as you call them (since when is it pro-GMO to doubt an outlandish hypothesis about GMOs?) will often take the easy route and go after the low-hanging fruit, for instance, pointing out that the pattern of the disease outbreak bear no resemblance to the pattern of mosquito releases, and that this argument is being made without any actual evidence whatsoever. This kills a hypothesis as an explanation. Moreover, the source (i-sis) is an old html website and not a scientific journal or review article, and the same source has made very outlandish and false claims before.
      It takes more effort to delve into the biology of the systems involved, and to dig up the references for what are very specific claims in biology. Humans are cognitive misers (take the shortcut whenever possible) which is a pretty basic issue in communication. Sometimes taking the more complex biological explanation can confuse people even further, especially on twitter. But sometimes the more complicated route becomes necessary. Since the main claim hinged on the argument that the gene would jump around and transpose itself in a way to affect the virus, I searched for references that would answer that question. I found the references in the regulatory documents themselves, which showed that the genetic system used is stable and does not re-transpose itself even when transposase is present. Biology debunked. (Even though the lack of geographic pattern matching already debunked it.)
      On the flipside, it becomes incumbent upon people who think there may be merit to a claim to verify for themselves whether the source is presenting any real evidence, is accurately stating the background information, and is quoting experts in the field rather than documents on weird corners of the internet. Check the sources before trusting the conclusions. And one must always remember the axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
      Finally, I would like to add a little more information to your characterization of your experience, and why it should probably not be taken as a universal experience. It became obvious from your profile that you are an educated individual who was capable of evaluating the claims and the sources, and who had declared themselves to be anti-GMO. An assistant professor of psychology, no doubt! It would be good to introspect into why this evaluation did not take place before defending the hypothesis that the mosquitoes could have caused the Zika outbreak. Indeed, I think most people when you point out that the pattern does not match would quickly doubt the crazy claim’s veracity. But education and bias can together have the opposite effect, digging one’s heels in rather than critically analyzing the claims. While we may have given you material for you class, I think the most interesting material would be those questions about bias and psychology, no? It would be very useful if you could turn this experience into a list of suggestions for people in your situation who are presented with claims such as these, so as to not fall into the cognitive traps that we often do.

      • Gordon Ingram

        Thank you for the polite response. However, I find myself in some disagreeement with your last paragraph!

        You are surely right that my experience was not typical. As a tenured academic with some professional knowledge of evolution, I would have quickly realised, from clicking on a few links in Tickell’s article, that his sources were bogus. I could and should have done that. The most embarrassing thing about the whole episode for me is that I initially claimed him as a fairly legitimate source. I won’t be making that mistake again. On the other hand, would a more naive individual have realised that his sources were bogus? I doubt it.

        My advice to a naive individual would not be “Do your own research” (as a naive individual, how can they be expected to effectively evaluate the results of that research? they will be very likely to over-rely on cognitive biases when interpreting it) but “Ask an expert”, which is what I did. If you think about it, this idea underpins our whole system of having “experts”. Indeed I would go so far as to say that an expert has a moral responsibility to try to explain their work to a naive individual who asks them about it (at least if they want to earn an above-average salary for their expertise :))

        I think what is missing from your analysis is an acknowledgement that both sides on this debate have been bullshitting. It takes time for a naive individual to dig through all the bullshit and find the nuggets of gold that correspond to a valid argument. In this case, as in the vast majority – though not quite all – of such cases, those nuggets turned out to be on the legit scientists’ side. But there have also been plenty of invalid arguments presented against the theory. The point about the lack of geographic coincidence, which you say that many reasonable people would have accepted straight off the bat, is clearly an invalid argument and I think that many people more scientifically naive than me would have seen that. The main problem is that once the hypothetical modified virus is inside a person, it can travel anywhere that person goes, and then continue spreading (as long as there are still the right mosquitos in the new area). One of the first people to be infected with hypothetical modified zika could easily have been travelling on a bus to Recife, for example. Basic epidemiology – indeed, basic common sense – teaches us that the first cases of an infectious disease are likely to be detected in local population centres (which in Brazil tend to be on the coast) with good access to health care, rather than at the actual point of origin. HIV is a good example of this: it is thought to be possibly a mutation of a simian immunovirus, but the first cases were certainly not detected in the African rainforest.

        So I was initially disappointed that this was originally Dr Wilcox’s sole substantive criticism of the theory. One might ask why she chose to make this argument from epidemiology, which is not her area, rather than genomics, which is closer to her expertise. There are probably interesting cognitive reasons for that as well. On a related point, I could not imagine her submitting a manuscript to a journal that looked anything like this blog post – unprofessional language and all. If you think about it there are even more interesting cognitive reasons why scientists writing this kind of piece aimed at a more general public like to “dumb down”, “let their hair down”, “say what they feel”. Do you think Tickell is thinking like that when he writes? No. He is trying to craft a narrative that will gain maximum traction with the general public, while preserving an air of professional respectability. He’s not just preaching to the choir in the way that a lot of people here have been.

        In conclusion, I continue to insist that as experts, we have more of a responsiblity to answer questions from naive individuals effectively, than the questioners to do ask them “correctly”. In my classes I always try to answer every question my students pose in a serious and respectful manner. (In fact I am having trouble thinking of a single instance when I have criticized a student’s question, as I have heard that some other professors do.) I think that unless asked maliciously, it is always better for a naive individual to ask a question, no matter how poorly worded, than not to ask. Having said that, I think I could and should have been much less confrontational and arrgoant in the way I posed my questions here (much more like the user dachshundsrule, for example).

        Thanks again for engaging with me here. Have a good day!

        • Dominick Dickerson

          gordon I’m delighted that you came to see that there were some pretty sizeable faults in Tickells theory.

          For what it’s worth, I think the earliest post I made in relation to someone posting the ecologist piece was in fact that the ecologist was not a credible source and that Mae Won Ho, the source of the “dangerous transposons” bit is a widely known crank who subscribes to some pretty bizarre beliefs. And if I’m remembering correctly, you took exception to that characterization. I realize now (as I did then) that it wasnt the most scientific way to dismiss Tickell’s claims but you have come to see that I was right concerning the quality of Tickell’s arguement and The Ecologist in general haven’t you?

          And I think the difference in tone between Mrs. Wilcoxs piece and Mr Tickells can be attributed down to simple fact: the ecologist piece is already coming from a position of non-credibility concerning its claims while this piece belies the confidence of someone assured in their knowledge of the subject that the theories put forward were ludicrous.

          Now as far as people’s responses go from the “proGM” side, I think it would be useful to see this in context. We as a modern society (without respect to arbitrary geopolitical divisions) are inundated with all kinds of specious and down right false claims regarding genetic engineering. Absolutely… inundated …constantly. Whether its Seralini’s lumpy rats, Krugers deformed piglets, Glyphosate in breast milk or Tickells claims regarding gm mosquitos being responsible for this unfolding human tragedy, there are groups of people who seem to work tirelessly to undermine public confidence in a suite of technologies that has proved to be nothing but beneficial. And perfectly well meaning people can get snookered in quite easily by all the false claims, because for whatever reason some people are just predisposed to be apprehensive about genetic engineering. Whether that stems from, be it a generalized philosophical opposition to “meddling with nature” , improper conflation with anticorporate sentiment or even just simple ignorance of the scientific underpinnings of the process (and more generally speaking of genetics and plant breeding), is a good question for social scientists. And you said it yourself in relation to Tickells theory, if you a tenured academic had your reasoning overridden by your predisposition against this kind of technology, what hope is there for the lay people?

          I think if we look at the state of public discourse surrounding genetic engineering over the last two decades yould find that until relatively recently it was dominated by anti-gm sentiment. This is reflected in the regulatory environment that has been created, where we see many places (especially Europe) that inspite of the suggestions of almost every national academy of science the development and deployment gm technology is hindered not by scientific uncertainty concerning the safety of these technology but because of sociopolitical opposition. Even in the United States, good solutions languish is regulatory limbo because the regulatory system is simply too onerous and it’s prohibitively expensive to guide some of these solutions through the hurdles of deregulation. As a perfect example it took the FDA 19 years to approve the Aquabounty Salmon, 19…years… and the approval wasn’t delayed on account scientific concerns but of political ones. Even now we have social and political forces conspiring to delay the introduction of aquabounty salmon into the US, by sneaking conditions into the recent spending bill that the FDA release final guidelines for the labeling of aquabounty salmon (which seems counter intuitive since the FDAs position is that simply because something is genetically engineered does not mean it requires labeling and their draft guidelines are already out)

          So when advocates for biotech see stories like Tickell’s they are understandably frustrated. This is more of the same misleading and ideologically driven propaganda that detractors of the technology have been using for decades to further erode public confidence in genetic engineering. And quite frankly, I’ve had enough of it and so have many other people. The old strategy was to be above the fray, that the science of genetic engineering is sound and that inevitably it will be vindicated in the eyes of the public once our policy makers see reason. 20 years on we can see that strategy didn’t work and if anything has enabled those groups diametrically opposed to the technology to flourish and hone their message. But enough is enough.

          In closing, overall I think it was wrong for some poster to claim you were anti-science. You believed something, were challenged on the beliefs, were presented with or found better information that contradicted your beliefs and changed them accordingly. That is the model of a scientific mindset. I still think your reservations concerning gm technology in general are without much support but that’s a discussion for another place and time.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Thanks for the considered response Dominick. Yes you did point out the weakness of Tickell’s sources and while I may have responded a bit snippily at first, I did take that on board. I understand why people get frustrated. It’s entirely reasonable. But I am reflecting on where I went wrong in this argumentation process and I just wanted to encourage others to do the same – not simply assume that you did everything right because your side “won” the argument. (A football manager would not last long in his job with that approach. Not that they last long anyway these days!)

          • Dominick Dickerson

            your reflections are welcome. Dispute our disagreement on some thing I think overall our exchange was cordial for the most part.

            Another reflection I have on why I so enthusiastically sought to dismiss the “gm causes Zika theory” is that in an instance like this, with this potential tragedy to human health unfolding through central and South America, public opinion on the role of gm technology is more malleable. If what oxitec’s field tests show regarding OX513A are reproducible on a grander scale (and there’s no indication I’ve seen that it shouldn’t) the implications are paradigm shifting. It will be the first time genetic modification of a pest organism it’s self would be employed to curb its spread. This has far reaching impacts not only in public health (using this strategy to curb other arthropod vectors of disease) but in agriculture as well (not only for the abatement of pests that physically destroy or reduce quality of agricultural products, but also in controlling vectors of devastating plant diseases which combined account for a global loss of yield somewhere around 30%).

            Traditionally these crises could only be handled by radical environmental engineering (reductions of reservoir habitats for vector organisms, e.g. Draining swamps for mosquitos. ) or through the use of widespread and nonspecific chemical treatment through the application of pesticides. These genetic solutions promise a way to control and limit these vectors of disease and pestilence without resorting to massive environmental or developmental changes (which can be slow and damaging to “wild” ecosystems) or the use of pesticides (which can carry substantial risk to human health and are indiscriminate and devastating in regards to other non target organisms).

            If the “gm mosquitos cause Zika/microcephaly” theory isn’t loudly and prominently denounced we risk the public being swayed against this application of genetic engineering technology in much the same way they were swayed against gm technology in plant breeding 20 years ago. Which should be apparent to you by now is Tickells and by extension Bernish and the Redditors animus. I view this as a watershed moment for a novel application of gm technology and I think others do as well.

            I hope that atleast in some way helps better explain the vim and vigor that biotech advocates (well atleast myself) have when its comes to the “debate” surrounding this issue.

            Best regards

        • Greg_Peterson

          I couldn’t make it through the whole rant, but I would like an explanation of how “ask an expert” differs from “appeal to authority.” I defer to authority because they are experts, and I don’t have a lab big enough to test every claim. If I have sufficient reason to doubt a given claim, even if it’s just the “sniff test,” I try to dig deeper and see what dissenting voices have to say. But if a statement is made by a group of scientists in peer-reviewed publications, what would possibly be my basis for doubting it, past the skepticism that the scientific method always demands of every claim?

          • Gordon Ingram

            I don’t think an objective observer would describe what I wrote as a “rant”. I am certainly prone to ranting at times, but not in this particular post, which I really put some thought into.
            I don’t generally distrust peer-reviewed articles either. What I was looking for was the links to the peer -reviewed articles. And I have actually accepted some things here on trust, without asking for proper citations, such as the sequencing of the zika virus which did not reveal GM material.
            Regarding your question, the difference is that if you talk to an expert they can explain to you exactly why the science is right and the crackpot theory is wrong. Can’t you see how different that is from saying that a theory can’t be true because it was originally posted on Reddit?
            I’m sorry but I’m not to accept “Run away and play on Reddit while the grown-up scientists do their work here” as a legitimate response on a blog like this. It’s a science communication problem.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            This is all very fine Gordon but a problem we face is that crank theories are like a never ending army of zombies. We cannot expect the small number of scientists who voluntarily give up their spare time to engage in public outreach on forums like this to meticulously deconstruct each and every zombie theory. It isn’t possible and it isn’t reasonable.

            And as it so happens, many folk who take zombie theories seriously cannot be reached by reason, facts and science. They might as well be living in a parallel sci-fi fantasy universe. From a sociological perspective, I think it is quiet right to humiliate and beat down these people so that in their organised forms they are stigmatised and deligitimized and thus less effective in framing the debate.

          • Gordon Ingram

            So how do the zombie theories get destroyed then?

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I don’t think zombie theories, for example holocaust denial theories, can be destroyed. The best we can do is stigmatise them and mitigate their impact. We mustn’t give in to the temptation to give them balanced coverage. David Irving should *not* be invited into the tv studio to air his views when the holocaust is discussed etc..

          • Gordon Ingram

            Well, I can certainly agree with that.
            The most disappointing thing about Tickell’s article, for me (since you want me to criticize him more) was that it wasn’t open for comments. I really wanted to ask questions there as soon as I read it. But I couldn’t. So I asked questions here instead. Of course if it had been open for comment, people who knew their stuff could have posted there and destroyed his theory. I will bear that closedness in mind as a bad sign in future.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Mmm I kind of work from the assumption that it’s better to avoid humiliating and stigmatizing anyone if we can help it. Even if we happen to think they are deeply, deeply misguided. Otherwise we are in some danger of ending up in a war of scientists against anti-scientists … and that really would be “a parallel sci-fi fantasy universe” (Ever read the ‘Dune’ books? “Butlerian Jihad” ring a bell? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butlerian_Jihad)

      • mem_somerville

        Gordon continues to mischaracterize his experience to make himself feel better that he was pushing bad information. I’m sure that’s cognitively difficult for him to have been wrong, which is why he continues to push the blame on “pro-GMO” folks, instead of aiming his ire at the people who were misleading him. You know, the ones peddling lies that could actively have harmed the public health of his community.

        We weren’t dissing r/Conspiracy because of “authority”. We were dissing them because they were wrong. Demonstrably wrong–which Christie completely demonstrated (with scientific references) right in the initial post.

        But to make himself not look like the bad guy, he’s shifting blame. This is typical of the conspiracy theorists I deal with all day long.

        There was no evidence that Gordon was any different than those typical CTers. He did everything they do–a textbook case, in fact. Clinging to fringe theories that suited his pre-existing beliefs. Ignored contrary evidence. Tried the consensus denial. He had dismissed the evidence in Christie’s piece. So there was no evidence that slinging more links would have any value.

        There was no reason to believe that information about the wild claims about the transposition were reachable. Because I’ve been aware of the biology of transposable elements for 30 years, it was clear to me that the packaging of this for human distribution was baseless. But we didn’t have 30 years to explain this to him.

        What we have is the one-way hash problem. Mike the Mad Biologist captured it here perfectly: http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2009/04/20/the-asymmetry-of-bullsh-t-and/

        The rebuttal requires a lot of biology that there was no evidence Gordon knew. (Or if he did know it, why he wasn’t using it–if he understands this biology, why didn’t he look at it before going off?). To explain ssRNA viruses, viral packaging, transposable elements, all this is why I mentioned at one point that I didn’t have time to send him to grad school.

        I am amused that his reflections about this are so self-centered: it’s all about his experience about finding that he was wrong. Not about his experience of falling for bad info. And he has no criticism for the people who got him to be so publicly misinformed. Or why he fell for it so easily.

        It also has to sting because this undermines his clearly stated anti-GMO world view. If these people were lying to him, what about the other things he’s been believing? He’s probably very shaken by that as well, if he’s actually thoughtful about it. And that will take time to play out. He probably can’t admit that yet.

        He is one of very few people who was reachable with evidence eventually, though, I will credit him for that. But what will he do with that? Will he correct the people who had aligned with him? He was threatening to blog about his experience. Maybe a blog post to benefit his community’s health issues would be more effective–he’s all about effectiveness.

        Or he could navel-gaze about how mean I am to him. That’s fine too. But what was the point of this exercise–getting the right information about a health crisis, or how butthurt you are that you were wrong? Time will have to tell on that.

        • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

          Self centered and callous. Gordon seriously believes that folk who inject synthetic insulin produced by GM organisms in order to stay alive are accessories to unethical behaviour.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Where did I say that? You’re making a lot of assumptions here. I said that my personal position against GM was an ethical one – i.e. not based on safety or disgust. I never criticized anyone else for using GMO products. That is their ethical decision to make. I never even said that GMOs should be illegal. FWIW, this debate here has changed my opinion somewhat on the latter point. I have several times admitted I was wrong and I have several times criticized the writer who manipulated me into believing his (very elegantly argued – this is important and you shouldn’t just deny that) theory. It’s quite disturbing how self-professed “scientists” can be so deluded about the evidence right in front of them of what their opponents are saying.

  • Bixbyte

    I have read the journal’s policy and the authors of this manuscript have the following competing interests: those authors affiliated to Oxitec Ltd (as noted in the author list) are or were employees or sponsored students of the company, which therefore provided salary and other support for the research programme. Also, all these employees have shares or share options in Oxitec Ltd.

  • ostracion

    Politically biased? How?

    • jsmunroe

      Maybe not politically, but the author has a point of view, a good point of view in my opinion, but instead of writing in an irenic way that might actually change someone’s mind she takes the opportunity to make sure the people who believe otherwise know that they are stupid. Can’t people be wrong without being stupid? Are smart people never wrong? I’m just saying there are more amicable ways of writing

      No the article doesn’t come out and say it, but the tone is definitely antagonistic to people who wrongly believe otherwise. If the authors goal is to enlighten people and correct misunderstandings than she is doing it badly. If however her goal is to mitigate the heretics, then she is right on target.

      • Gordon Ingram

        Very well said!

  • Nathan Mitchell

    Mosquito’s can travel 20 km a day fuk witts.

    • Paulo Andrade

      Not Aedes: mean fight range 60 m. But it can tajke a ride in your car.

  • Nathan Mitchell

    Funny how the comments have to be approved, corrupt as shit..

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      ProTip: If you stop swearing in your comments, they won’t catch in the Disqus spam filter.

  • Nathan Mitchell

    Out of the 4,180 cases of microcephaly in Brazil, since October of last year the actual number of confirmed cases so far is, well, only 270. Out of that 270 confirmed cases only 6 have found the Zika virus. Which means that the chances of the Zika Virus causing microcephaly is virtually ZERO. So its just more fear mongering no doubt to sell a vaccine soon or something.

  • Ronald Christensen

    I’m skeptical. I’m not saying this is or isn’t true on either side, however, throughout the first half is this article, it states that the GM mosquitoes were released in 1 place in 2015. Then, within a couple paragraphs, the writer changes the location AND the date of the release, then the location again. Overlooking all that, though, isn’t it POSSIBLE that the first release in 2011/2012 sparked an issue? Though the release was not actually in the center of the outbreaks, mosquitoes can easily travel and logically would go to the coast because mosquitoes are attracted to bodies of water. Now, they say they were able to reduce that population by 90%, and claim a 5% survival rate of the gm population in lab. Therefore, using that math only, half the remaining population would be gm. Perhaps the genetic modification somehow caused some sort of mutation in the zika virus itself, causing the new, previously unheard of “complications.” I’m no geneticist, biologist, or immunologist, but since this is the only place where these “complications” are occurring so far, I would say there’s a probability that the 2 are related. I would say that if within a few years, we see the same pattern near the latest release further south in Brazil, we can go ahead and put 2 and 2 together. Also, with the surviving population having the ability to survive despite the inserted necessity for the missing supplement, that would mean all survivors of that species have that capability and will continue to breed, eventually breeding out that necessity and returning to regular breeding and survivability. Therefore, the population will continue to rise again and if their genetic modification IS responsible for the change in the zika virus, these “complications” will become much more common as well.

    • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

      Though the release was not actually in the center of the outbreaks, mosquitoes can easily travel and logically would go to the coast because mosquitoes are attracted to bodies of water.

      Right, so you think all mosquitoes head to the coast because God knows that is the only place that has water. And you think that is logical.

      I’m no geneticist, biologist, or immunologist …

      … and you didn’t read the article and you think it is jolly good fun to spread silly rumours. I fear for the future of your children.

      • Ronald Christensen

        I didn’t spread any rumors. I never stated that any of what I said is fact, I merely stated that these are possibilities. I did read the article, and decided to use my brain. Not all the outbreaks are right on the coast, so no I’m not saying they all went to the coast. Calm down, killer.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          All the “possibilities” you’ve brought up have been challenged with by the author herself, or somewhere in the exchanges in the comment section.

          It’s much much much more likely that we’re seeing a rise in birth defects fromzika because in the areas where Zika is endemic, exposure likely occurs before sexual maturity. Here in the new world, where we have populations who have never been exposed to the virus that isn’t the case. Meaning we’re seeing new pathologies and new modes of transmission from the virus entering a new habitat with immunologically naive populations.

          • Ronald Christensen

            Article says the virus started in Africa. Wouldn’t that be one of those populations? Why weren’t they affected the same way? As stated in the first sentence of my first comment, I’m not saying one way or the other that this was caused by mosquitoes, just seems like it may be a possibility. It is very likely from my viewpoint that there is a new strain of the virus as another person suggested. Whether the new strain is a mutation from the virus adapting to the new gene in the mosquitoes is unknown. As I also stated, if we see a similar set of events occur near the latest release site within a few years, I would consider that sufficient evidence that it is related to the mosquitoes. I’m not there to do any type of research for myself and I’ll assume you’re not either, so neither of us are really equipped to say definitively that the 2 are or are not connected.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Yes the virus was first identified in Africa in 1947 and it was first reported in Malaysia in 1969. These populations have cohabitated with the virus for probably quite some. Because of this cohabitation if the disease has high prevalence in its original range it’s like chicken pox, individuals are very likely to contract that in childhood, before sexual maturity. If you get the virus before your have sex, how is it going to cause birth defects?

            And we dont know if it didn’t happen that way in say, Malaysia where it was first detected 20 years after its discovery. Do you have historical epidemiological statistics concerning microcephaly in Malaysia? (Try saying that ten times fast!) At best we can say that these effects have yet be observed elsewhere, not that they didn’t happen else where. That may seem insignificant, but it’s an important distinction. And more relevantly, this outbreak came to the new world,via Oceania and Asia over the last several years. There have several outbreaks across the pacific, including an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2015 where severe neurological malformations were observed. This fits the theory that thereforto unknown pathologies are observed a themvirus moves into a new area.

            Actually, I am equipped to know that they’re not connected.

            Firstly, The idea that the genetic modification could be responsible doesn’t make sense. The author of the ecologist piece and by extension the ultimate source of those claim Mae Won Ho have been using the “transposons (jumping genes) in GMOs are changing your DNA ,* p.s. Buy organic*” angle for years. This is just the newest iteration of the same old song and dance. And it just doesn’t hold much water. First of all, transposons occur naturally in almost every thing we eat. All they are is a certain category of genes that share certain behaviors, in the case of transposons these genes can move not only within a chromosome but also between chromosomes. These things are very very common in nature, as much as 90% of the genome of corn consists of these transposable elements (TE) and the human genome is 50%. The Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species in question here, has a genome that consists of 47% TE. So since we’re constantly interacting with TE elements from our foods and from wild type mosquitos it stands to reason that either a)the elements are moving but it doesn’t effect normal genome function b) or these elements aren’t moving between foods and people or mosquitos and people.

            More to the point I cited above a 2013 study that demonstrates that the specific transposon, PiggyBac, has very low mobility in Aedes aegypti.

            So I’m quite confident that the genetic engineering of the mosquito is not connected.

          • Ronald Christensen

            My theory doesn’t suggest that the genetic modification directly caused the difference in symptoms from the virus. I hypothesize that modifying the mosquitoes may have caused the virus to natural adapt (perhaps or recognized the supplemental requirement change in the mosquitoes and ever so slightly “evolved” to adapt to a change that likely wouldn’t have affected it anyways, but it didn’t wanna take a chance). I would suggest this very slight change in the virus is causing new symptoms.

            By the way: “historical epidemiological statistics concerning microcephaly in Malaysia”

            I totally said that 10 times fast. Haha

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I think wise and intelligent adults listen to what people with expertise have to say. They don’t go off on a fantastical frolic based on mis-remembered lessons from junior high biology class.

          • Ronald Christensen

            So you’re saying that there is no possible way whatsoever that a virus may have adapted to a change in its environment? Doesn’t sound like something a wise, intelligent adult would say. Sounds like something a closed minded, spoon fed minion would say.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Stop at two. For the sake of the species, stop at two.

          • Ronald Christensen

            How about you try thinking for yourself instead of repeating whatever you’re told by someone else.

          • Erica

            Captain Moonlight, What Christie posted of my responses were edited and all my factual information was deleted.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            I saw you post junk from Mae Won Ho, the discredited water memory theorist and homeopath. I’m amazed that Christie didn’t ban you right there and then.

          • Erica

            Well, that was a bad post. I have no idea who that was, but he was talking about horizontal gene transfer of bio genetics. I have been researching the microcephaly epidemic for weeks and read a hundred articles and have traced the trials and cases and understand exactly through Oxitec site how the mosquitoes work. She was posting false information on her site. She never mentioned that females get loose in the trials, that they are all genetically engineered she acted like just the males were and she did not mention that the females could not only bite, but they could reproduce in the wild if they had access to tetracycline. She also refused to acknowledge that Pernambuco was even significant because it was too far from the site of the epidemic, when pernambuco was the first site to report microcephaly case. What ever. Her report was misleading. Zika has not been proven to be the cause of microcephaly but she has accepted it as the truth, even though 3,000 pregnant women in Colombia have zika and there are no cases of microcephaly. I just was pointing out that it was a valid theory not to completely dismiss as a conspiracy theory. GM mosquitoes are new. Its new territory.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Well, that was a bad post. I have no idea who that was, but he was talking about horizontal gene transfer of bio genetics.

            You still don’t appear to have any idea. Mae-Wan Ho is a “she” not a “he”. How can you be taken seriously if you don’t bother to check the bona fides of your sources? You claim to have researched this epidemic for weeks yet you quote nonsense from an elderly woman who pushes Chinese traditional medicine, water memory theory, homeopathy and other such nonsense. You are incompetent, rude (referring to Christie as “she”), lack understanding of the primary science and you have not posited a hypothesis that is worth investigating. Go away. Go ply your nonsense on Reddit with the other trolls.

          • Julie Rosenwinkel
          • Paulo Andrade

            Trying to answer your question: the GM mosquitoes die 4 to 7 days after being released in the environment. Only less than 1% of the released insects are females: they should find a patient with zika infection to suck. By 2012, when the GM mosquitoes were released at Juazeiro da Bahia, the zika virus was not circulating in Brazil. Even if a couple of female mosquitoes could have bitten an infected person (a traveler, for instance), they would have died before the virus had the chance to complete its cycle in the insect (usually from 8 to 14 days). We must come to the conclusion that the entire hypothesis is just a fantasy.

  • Krista Gifford

    What if it isn’t Zika that is causing the birth defect but instead just a DNA jump more directly from mosquito to human? We know that the transposon piggybak can jump around pretty easily. What if some genetic material in mosquito saliva contained the gene that causes birth defects in mosquitos and piggybak inserted that gene into the developing baby of a pregnant woman? Now this would assume that GM mosquitoes bit people so some would have to be female – and we know that there were only supposed to be male GM mosquitoes. But we know that 5% of the GM offspring do survive so they could have the birth defect gene even if it isn’t expressed and some of them would have to be female. If it were true that Zika was the cause of the birth defects and GM mosquitos had nothing to do with it, then why aren’t we seeing birth defects in the 20 other countries recently infected with Zika?

    • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

      We know that the transposon piggybak can jump around pretty easily.

      In other words you were too lazy to read the article and follow the links. Much more fun to spread immature and ignorant nonsense.

      • Dominick Dickerson

        I was actually reading up on this. apparently the genome of Aedes aegypti already contains a high amount of transposons. According to this paper 47% of the genome is derived of transposable elements. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868357/

        So if people are worried about transposons they should be just as worried for wild type Aedes aegypti spreading round their endogenous “jumping genes” as they are about gm Aedes aegypti.

        Then there’s this paper
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3701635/,

        which finds that “piggyBac has very limited mobility once integrated into the genome of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. ”

        • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

          Thanks Dominick. I must admit I had never even heard of transposons until this controversy started! I’m enjoying learning stuff from folk such as yourself. Thanks.

  • dickG

    Apology accepted!
    .
    Sincerely,
    .
    .
    Dipterans R.A. Maggot.

  • ernldo

    I hope they’re working on an African strain….

  • Johnson Ebony

    Hello to the general public, my name is Johnson Ebony, i want to bring to your awareness that there are herbal medicine that could totally eradicate herpes virus from the body, I’m giving this testimony with special reference to Dr.Okaka the great Herbalist.
    He has the cure to all manner of disease, meanwhile there has been proofs and lots of testimonies to that effect. I took my time to investigate doctor Okaka on how his herbs magically cured my friend craig and his girl friend who contacted this embarrassing herpes virus 3years ago.There was no reason to doubt his testimony because i saw the speed at which he recovered and felt life in him again.Now am just being an advocate of good health. Please do reach out to doctor Okaka via his email: drokakasolutionhome@gmail.com for any issues concerning your health, (All kinds of health problems) and Please don’t die in pains and shame, remember good health they say is wealth, contact him.

    • hyperzombie

      Spam

  • bwana

    Another conspiracy theory that will probably harm a whole lot of people! Won’t vaccinate your kids;DUMB! Take this or that to cure your diabetes; DUMB! The Earth is flat; just totally STUPID! Things don’t evolve; DUMB! Taking celebrities opinions on scientific topics: equally DUMB!

  • Gordon Ingram

    Dr Wilcox, thank you for the excellent update to your blog post. This is now exactly the sort of post I was looking for when I went looking for a rebuttal to Tickell’s hypothesis. You explain the science very clearly (I love the diagram of the flavivirus reproduction process – I know it isn’t your own but it’s really quite beautiful; nice find!). If the post had looked like this when friends first pointed me here, I wouldn’t have got engaged in such a protracted debate. But I know it takes time to properly refute the cranks’ theories and I understand why it is frustrating for people to have to do that. Thanks again for taking the time and effort to do this so thoroughly. We may still have strong differences of opinion but I admire you for defending your beliefs so rigorously.

    This whole episode has certainly given me a lot to reflect on and has changed my attitudes in important ways – to the extent that I would now hesitate to even describe myself as “anti-GMO”. Obviously I still have grave reservations about the technologies, but as a result of interacting with certain people here (I would single out Dominick Dickerson for his generally polite, patient and informative style of argumentation) I now recognize that much as it might still appeal to me, it’s impossible to turn the clock back to before GMOs were developed. I will focus my future political efforts on ensuring proper regulation, testing and need-demonstration of the technologies.

    I have already modified my original Facebook post (which caused a friend to point me here) to suggest that Tickell’s theory is almost certainly false. I will also tweet a link to your updated post to make up for my original tweeting of his article. Some aspects of the debate in the comments section may have been a little unedifying, but hopefully as a result of that process people can now learn a bit more from your blog (including some of the comments!) than they otherwise would have.

  • Sandy Gibbs

    check out this guy…he calls himself doctor/ here are his credentials

    Dr. Mark Sircus, Ac., OMD, DM (P)
    Director International Medical Veritas Association
    Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

  • Ronald Christensen

    I don’t trust studies – the results typically depends on who’s paying for it. I honestly don’t have enough evidence to be for OR against GMO or genetic modification in general. I do however have my instincts and intellect. I am skeptical about genetic modification, the way I see it is: this universe as a whole was put together in a way that works. Our bodies are very specifically designed to handle the environment as it is given to us. We were built to digest food as it is grown naturally. On the other hand, or bodies are also built to adapt to certain changes. From my perspective, that’s what cancer is, our bodies attempting to adapt to something and failing. I believe that when any type of change in the environment happens too fast, or bodies ability to adapt can’t catch up, which causes our cells to mutate in a way that is devastating to our bodies. Were we to allow these changes to occur naturally (or in this case, stop tampering with the very genetics of our environment for no reason), I believe cancer would not be so prevalent. This is just my hypothesis.

    • Pogo333

      What proportion of everything you stated in your post is based on the results of studies – which you said you don’t trust?

      And are you suggesting that we all go back to being hunters and gatherers so all of our food is “grown naturally”?

      • Ronald Christensen

        None – no, I’m stating that plants and animals will grow perfectly fine without being genetically modified. Why would you think everyone would have to be hunters/gatherers for things to grow naturally?

        • Pogo333

          The conundra of your previous post are that (1) you claimed to distrust studies, but then built a philosophy from the results of studies, and (2) you failed to define what “naturally grown” means. When it comes to the did we eat, essentially none of our is naturally grown. Virtually none of our domesticated plants and animals would persist for a significant time in nature were it not for our unnatural production practices that protect our food and fiber from natural selective forces. We have so modified our plants and animals to produce that they have lost or greatly diminished their traits for surviving in the wild. And that has worked out well for most of us, since the great majority of us don’t have to worry about producing or obtaining the raw food materials. Instead we can sit at our computers and whine about the world on Disqus. 😊

          • Ronald Christensen

            I didn’t cite any studies. You could clearly tell I was talking specifically about genetic modification in any given reply. When a farmer plants a seed, waters it, let’s it grow without changing its genetics, I consider that natural, as it was allowed to NATURALLY mature. Yes, it may need some tending and whatnot, but the plant is not changed on a genetic level. There’s no need for that type of tampering ever for any reason, the plants grow fine without it. In the case of animals the same applies, they are fed and allowed to grow without genetic modification and the animal is NATURALLY allowed to mature. They also may need tending, but they are still the way they were NATURALLY created, not modified.

          • Pogo333

            I know you didn’t cite any studies, but your opinions about what the body is designed to digest and handle, among other things, are presumably baes on a myriad of historical studies. Unless of course you have firsthand knowledge of human evolution, nutritional ecology, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, and on and on. Do you know who paid for the thousands of studies that provide the scaffold for your opinions? Are they all trustworthy?

            I understand what you meant with regard to naturally grown, but your usage is extremely fuzzy. When you are growing highly domesticated plants (essentially all crops), you are growing plants greatly modified genetically relative to their ancestral parents. They require tillage or some other weeding method because they are poor competitors. They require added nutrients. They require protection from arthropods and pathogens. They require significant human intervention to succeed. That isn’t particularly “natural” because domesticated plants are no longer “natural” by most fuzzy standards.

          • Ronald Christensen

            I have what are called instincts… I think everyone has them, but not everyone uses them. Your rambling about “domesticated plants” is ridiculous. I have a backyard vegitable garden and I plant the seeds, water them, and let them grow. I do minimal weeding and use no additional nutrients. I use ladybugs to handle small garden pests which are a natural predator, so those would be found around wild grown plants as well. Any genetic differences in the plants these days would have to have occurred naturally anyways over time, giving our bodies time to adapt to those changes as well. I know what I’m saying may not make sense to you and I’m not saying I’m 100% correct, but this is my hypothesis, as I stated before. I believe it makes sense and is a possibility, not trying to put any of this out as fact. Though, most of the people that oppose my views seem to think every thought they have is fact just because they read it somewhere. Like I said, think for yourself and stop taking everyone’s word for everything. On most, if not all subjects, facts can be found to support BOTH sides of the argument. It’s up to you too decide which side to take. Information is everywhere and no one can tell you what information to believe and not believe except you.

          • Pogo333

            My point, Ronald, is that your instincts are largely derived from information that has been conveyed to you, and which is the result of the studies and efforts of many, many others. Those seeds that you plant are the result of many years (perhaps millenia) of breeding and selection. Your intuition had nothing to do with which plants or varieties to grow, because the availability of the seed and the proper varieties all results from the efforts of others. You might be interested in reading some of Jared Diamond’s papers about development of domesticated plants and animals.

            You are fortunate to have a garden that requires little weeding and no nutrients, although I am baffled by how you can continue to grow in the long-term without nutrient inputs. Plants remove and re-arrange nutrients, so how do you keep the soil producing over time?

            I’m also curious about your use of ladybugs. Do you purchase and release them, or do you simply rely on naturally occurring beetles? Apparently you lack problems with whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, cucumber beetles, pickleworms, stink bugs, leafhoppers, and many caterpillar pests. You must be in a fairly far northern climate to be able to have minimal weed pressure and apparently chiefly aphid problems in your vegetable garden.

            I do think for myself on the issue of GM crops, and have weighed evidence carefully on both sides of the debate. I am continuing to weigh evidence. I had breakfast this morning with a discovery scientist from industry and we discussed the RNAi corn being field tested right now in Argentina against Diabroticine rootworms. This is new technology for this usage (against insect pests; RNAi technology is at the heart of the 20-year-old GM papaya success against ringspot in Hawaii), and I grilled her with questions about safety assessments and prospects for commercial release. My sense is that the technology is safe, but there are still some questions being hammered out.

            We also discussed safety assessments currently required, and she listed some novel Bt and RNAi tools that looked promising until screening in the laboratory indicated unacceptable nontarget risks toward pollinators and arthropod natural enemies. They will never see the light of day. These GM tools are being screened at an intensity that I have never seen for conventional (or organic) tools, perhaps with the exception of spinosad, which became an organic insecticide after the conventional version had been heavily studied and released.

          • Amber Lee Poole

            Some just love to argue… thank you for your insights

          • Emkay

            True! so stop it and go make a sandwich…

    • Amber Lee Poole

      Dear Sir, I like your thinking!!!!

      • Ronald Christensen

        Thanks, I like my thinking, too. Hahaha

  • cable1977

    It’s you who doesn’t have any scientific knowledge, just a political axe to grind (or perhaps some shares in biotech to protect?)”

    I knew the “shill” gambit would show up sooner or later. It’s all you sycophants have to rely on. But I’m not the one with the hidden profile, am I? Guess you don’t want people to see all of the pro-organic comments you make. Glad to see you’re taking in some of that $40 billion dollars a year that BigOrganic makes. But then again, Seralini got some, so why not his sycophants.

    1. I didn’t move the goalposts, I clarified the points. There is no statistical analysis on most of the data presented in the paper showing difference from controls. Since Seralini, and his supporters, have made public claims regarding the tumor incidence and size, then there needs to be statistical analysis that back up such claims. There is none, no matter how many times you bitch about it. If all you want to make claims on are the biochemical data, then go for it and we can just ignore everything else.

    2. I think the one who is squirming is the one who can’t seem to do anything, but repeat his initial points after they’ve been criticized. Sounding a bit like a broken record. As clearly noted by Seralini within the paper itself, the n=10 is only valid for hematological and biochemical measurements, not for any other readouts, the requirements for any other readouts require n=20. So, how is the study powered sufficiently for any of the readouts the paper is noting apart from the biochemical data? If you just want to say that any data apart from figure 3 and table 3 can be completely ignored, then I think that’s a reasonable point to make. You actually going to answer this time or just hurl some more insults from behind your computer?

    3. No, I didn’t say that. Try reading again. What I stated, again, was clarifying the point. The issue is not the breed itself, but using the breed to a point where they are highly prone to develop tumors. That is why most studies in that breed are 90 day and not 24 months.

    4. Yes, there is still a need to show controls. That is basic scientific practice 101. You can call me all the names you want, but if you show images of treated animals, you should show images of control animals. In addition, since the tumor incidence in SD rats by this age is over 50%, it would be pretty odd if there were no tumors. So, then clearly the control rats are not good controls. So, which is it, the SD rats have no tumors and aren’t good controls or they have tumors and Seralini is not showing the proper controls.

  • cable1977

    5. Were you there? Folks like yourself have no problem questioning the ethics of anyone who might work for a biotech company or be in any way associated with a biotech company, so why isn’t Seralini’s group open to the same questions? How do I know they are following guidelines? According to OECD TG 452, the doses should be chose to avoid “suffering, severe toxicity, morbidity, or death.” Seems to me that Seralini wasn’t interested in following that guideline. In addition, because they only analyze data from 1 timepoint, they are violating guidelines #39/40 for chronic toxicity studies. So, let’s not pretend Seralini was looking to publish a high quality toxicology study. If he was, then he’d show ALL the data, not just the cherry picked stuff.

    6. So, then make specific claims that demonstrate how the majority of the findings are dose dependent.

    7. There should have been a non-GMO control for each level of GMO corn (i.e. there should have been an 11 percent control for the 11 per cent GMO corn, a 22 percent control for the 22 percent GMO corn and 33 percent standard corn for the 33 percent GMO corn. As energy content, carbohydrate load and other components of the corn may affect tumour formation, this is a fundamental flaw which invalidates any conclusions.

    “You have some nerve bringing up conflicts of interest when the FCT Journal itself brought in a former Monsanto shill to review the paper.”

    I have no problem with talking about conflicts of interest when people are willing to address ALL conflicts of interest, not just those arguing against them. Seralini has plenty, so if you want to discuss conflicts of interest (which you brought up first), then we discuss them all.

    “That’s right, Seralini didn’t falsify any data, there was no misconduct, and thus no scientific reason for the retraction of Seralini’s paper.”

    Except that misconduct is not the only reason why a paper is retracted, as noted in Wallace Hayes’ statements.

    “In fact, the retraction stunk so badly, that a former FCT editorial board member, Marcel Roberfroid wrote to the journal condemning the retraction.”

    Congratulations, that’s a brilliant argument from authority. Funny thing is, I could come up with a slew of people who would state the exact opposite and state that the paper should never have been accepted in the first place.

  • Dan Keown

    Heh all you pro GMO posters ( including creator of post) you might want to check your employers stock price, they’re just about to go bust.

    • ostracion

      *makes baseless accusations towards supporters of GM science and techniques of somehow having financial stake in their positions*

      *actually, literally has an entire career based off woo/pseudoscience….yet never considers financial dependence on people buying into unscientific beliefs as tainting the legitimacy of position in support of those beliefs*

      • Dan Keown

        I know a lot of Emergency medicine is woo (take cervical collars in trauma for instance and the the epidemic coruption by Pharma) but it’s still a bit unfair to say my entire career is based on it. (Yeah, do some research first cleverclogs).
        I dont see anyone denying their links to biotech though… Why would anyone sane try and defend the monstrous acts they are committing.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          So you don’t believe in ancient Chinese secrets or wrote a book extoling the virtues of OCM and how it’s super seriously supported by science based medicine?

          How much tiger penis should I use to balance my qi and restore masculinity?

          • Dan Keown

            And your job is? (to go back to the original posting… cue another distraction)

          • Dan Keown

            still waiting: God forbid that you’re posting in ‘scientific’ journals without declaring a conflict of interest! Surely that’s not good ‘science’ mwa ha ha

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I have no conflict of interest as my employment is not in biotechnology.

            You however seem to have plenty of COI. £880 per student to enroll in your “school” that relies on undermining science based medicine in favor of vitalism . Hmm

          • Dan Keown

            Once again, thanks for the plug – its the best acupuncture school on the planet.
            What do you work as then? Quite frankly, I just dont believe you have no conflict. You appear to be a singular entity on the internet whose only purpose is to support GM.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            You don’t have to believe me. I don’t really care.

            It’s great to watch you contort when confronted with the fact that your position has no evidence to support it concerning OX513A and the conspiracy theories being promulgated by unsavory types throughout the Internet.

            Do you have any scientific evidence that is contrary to any of my statements or the authors statements concerning this issue, or are you just going to keep making unfounded shill accusations against everyone you disagree with?

            Maybe launch into some vaccine denialism or other crank theories?

            Maybe you could speak to use about the efficacy of bear bile or powdered seahorse. That seems to be in your wheelhouse right?

          • Dan Keown

            Clearly ‘you don’t care’ why not write another 200 words about how little you care?

          • ostracion

            Come now, when talking about something based on nonsense (like acupuncture) that has no net effect, isn’t it a little pointless to use descriptors like “best” or “worst”? I mean, it doesn’t matter how large the coefficient in front of zero is…the product is still nothing.

          • Dan Keown

            All good science declares a conflict of interest after all.

          • Dan Keown

            and you’ve got 2500 posts on GM (I only checked 20 but you very kindly confirmed this) yet no backstory behind your name on the internet. http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/8/food-agriculturemonsantogmoadvertising.html

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Again Dan, I’m really flattered that you go to such lengths in an attempt to undermine the information I’ve provided in my posts. It tells me that youre really threatened by the kind of information and perspective I bring to this discussion and can’t challenge it based on evidence.

            I have a deep personal interest in this technology and the fundamental science that underlies it. I also have the relevant educational background to engage with the scientific literature, which is what I base my conclusions on regarding this issue. As I told you before I make no apologies for that.

            Slinging around the shill accusation doesn’t make you look profound, it makes you look desperate. Just a tip for you little buddy.

          • Dan Keown

            ha ha ha thanks for the ‘tip’

      • Dan Keown

        Youself for instance (since you’ve bought my career into it). What do you do?

      • Dan Keown

        and your job?

        • ostracion

          I don’t work in biotech, if that’s what you’re asking. Actually, wait, that’s totally what you’re asking. How could it be anything else?
          Not that it matters to say so, because you’ve obviously had your “I see shills, shills everywhere!” goggles welded to your face, but I don’t have a vested financial interest in supporting GM science. What I do have is enough professional and educational background in genetics to understand the biology, navigate the scientific literature, and identify the incredible potential for GM tech to do a whole lot of good in this world. My background is more on the comparative/evolutionary genomics and phylogeography side of things but the fundamentals of how transgenics works is picked up along the way.

          I’m not funded by “Big GMO”, or paid to be an advocate of science, although admittedly, my life would be significantly easier if that were the case! I’m patiently awaiting my shill stipend, Monsanto/Syngenta! If people are indeed getting paid under the table en masse for speaking up for GM science, I assure you, I’m missing out!

          • Dan Keown

            Amazing how everyone who says they dont have a conflict of interest is incredibly reticent to say what they actually DO? You work as a professor in a university then?

      • Dan Keown

        At least one poster FSMPastapharian (no declared conflict of interest) does this:
        ‘For a living, I take apart DNA and put it back together again to make it do what I want it to do. I’m guessing that what qualifies as a miracle to you is just a day at work for me.’
        Like I said: you gotta declare a conflict of interest in science.

        • http://www.ueb.cas.cz/cs/content/laborator-virologie Tomas Moravec

          So how exactly is profesionální experience in molecular biology conflict of interest? Does it mean he works for oxitec? I also work with DNA, never worked for a private entity or profit making company. I work for the Czech government. Does that constitute a conflict of interest in your view?

          • ostracion

            He honestly thinks there’s some sort of dark, genetics-associated conglomerate of nefarious scientific dealings: anyone in the broader sense of the field is a part of the system, apparently.

          • Dan Keown

            What do you do?! why is that such a difficult question to answer… you happily bring up what I do.

          • ostracion

            Well, Dan, there are a number of reasons why you aren’t getting the answers you seek.

            1) It would be entirely a waste. It wouldn’t matter what I told you. If I was indeed a professor at a university, and told you so, you would give me some insane line (as you already have in this comment section to someone else) about how academic institutions and the researchers based there are all somehow bought off by big business. If I told you I was a graduate student, you’d alledge I was being brainwashed by my shill mentors. If I told you I worked as an investigator in industry, you’d demand to know where, and would, unimaginatively, contend that I was owned by my corporate masters. You’ve already made up the rules to your own reality, and you’ve already decided who I am.

            2) I don’t owe you anything. I especially don’t desire to give personal info to a disturbed, delusional, little jackbag who seems obsessed with discovering the occupations of those he disagrees with. Oh, and I don’t give out such information to admitted frauds that convince suckers that pin pricks are magic (acupuncture is fraud; it’s the air guitar of medicine), thanks.

            3) Finally, I like how much me not telling you has made you squirm. Why would I willingly deprive myself of that entertainment?

            Listen, Dan, if you are that bitter that everyone here knows who you are and the slippery, predatory woo that makes up your career, and you know nothing about everyone else, then you probably should reconsider plastering your deception-based “medicine” all over the internet.

          • Dan Keown

            You want to know why someone whose career, income and almost certainly share options is entirely dependent on GM has a conflict of interest when safety of GM is discussed?!? You’re wasted in Czech government – Capitol Hill is calling!

          • http://www.ueb.cas.cz/cs/content/laborator-virologie Tomas Moravec

            Now I am not sure what are you referring to. Whose career and income is dependent on GMO? In our country we almost do not grow any gmo crops, we do not have even a biotech industry, definitely not in agriculture, although there are some startups in medical biotech field. yet we have thousands of professionals in molecular biology in university, academic and government laboratories. do you think that their paychecks are somehow subsidised by monsanto or oxitec or some big bio conglomerate?

          • Dan Keown

            In the last post I was referring to that specific poster but, more generally, to the systemic corruption of academia, and online forums. In the UK and US academic institutes are now businesses and there business is churning out ‘research’ to the highest bidder.

          • Dan Keown

            Furthermore, it has been fairly well documented ( just google search it) that companies, especially those involved in controversial and unpopular practices, pay people to post on online forums.

          • http://www.ueb.cas.cz/cs/content/laborator-virologie Tomas Moravec

            So what do you do for living?

          • Dan Keown

            Emergency doctor, acupuncturist and teach acupuncture

          • Dan Keown

            See, it’s easy isn’t it? No ‘I don’t do this and this ‘ BS

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Acupuncture is an unconscionable scam. You are an immoral grifter who fleeces sick people. You have an objective financial interest in white anting science. Ideally you should spend the rest of your life in a prison cell with an amorous bikie named Biff

          • Dan Keown

            If you expect me to drop to your level, you’re mistaken.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            How many patients have you damaged by sticking them with dirty needles? My sleuthing tells me you are known in London as Dirty Dan.

          • Dan Keown

            Remember your masters wouldn’t be happy if there was blowback.

          • Dan Keown

            Captain moonlight sleuths away ie continues his true job of spreading lies and misinformation on Internet.

          • Bill Carey

            He should learn to adhere to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truths one can only find from news sources like RT and Infowars eh?

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Dirty Dan the needle stick injury man. I wonder how we can get news of your malpractice high up in google search results? Hmmm.

          • Dan Keown

            Ooh I’m so scared. Always nice to be proven right though.

          • Dan Keown

            Also if you had an employee at this moment I can sue them too. I imagine that is some serious money

          • Bill Carey

            It has also been fairly well documented (just google search it) that unctuous people, especially those convinced of the absolute superiority of their ideologies relative to controversial and unpopular practices, will post on online forums and not charge for it. It seems they’re convinced that it’s a public service.

          • Dan Keown

            Finally you have the more insidious form of bias that can be summed up with the phrase ‘it’s difficult to change a mans mind if his pay check depends on it’

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Dan, you are a grifter who runs an outfit that sells fake medicine. How about you declare your conflict of interest?

        • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

          Dan, isn’t it time you went outside and played with the trucks?

    • Gordon Ingram

      Which stock are you referring to? Intrexon (which is about to buy Oxitec) seems to be doing fine. (Oxitec itself is not listed publicly.)

      • Dominick Dickerson

        Actually Oxitec is already a wholly owned subsidiary of intrexon. They were purchased in August of last year. But your point still stands.

        But you’re right, their stock is doing fine, over the last few weeks it’s up like 50% or something after bottoming out in early January.

      • Dan Keown

        Interesting, clearly whatever happening in Brazil good for Oxitech. Talking about this: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/02/04/why-did-biotech-fall-off-a-cliff-in-january.aspx

    • Bill Carey

      Working for Chipotle are they?

  • Ralph Jordan

    Excellent critique, Dr. Wilcox.

  • marc

    GM mosquitoes or not that kind of epidemy is unclear and strange .But if at first glance we wipe out one thing because it can’t be that one ,without any clue ,it’s something strange . How can ,someone honest ,says it’s not that,without any prove ?Ethics ,maybe ,is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

  • Overburdened_Planet

    Most pet owners clean their pet’s food more frequently and health
    officials advise that no standing containers of water be left for Aedes
    aegypti to breed in.

    Wouldn’t standing water occur in many other places?

    Puddles of water after a rain?

    • Dominick Dickerson

      Mhm, exactly why mosquito eradication is tricky business.

      Any standing water at all can act as breeding habitat for the mosquito.

      • Overburdened_Planet

        Indeed.

        Hence the reason why I questioned that particular reference, where pet owners seem to already address health officials concerns, but they or the article disregarded all the other possibilities for water acting as a breeding habitat.

        Science? 😉

        • ostracion

          The comment about cat food was specifically referring to how the 15% survival rate in the lab occurred. Rainwater wouldn’t have tetracycline, thus the GM mosquitoes wouldn’t survive in puddles.

          • Overburdened_Planet

            Understood, and to me the point you brought up was more of a side topic because I wasn’t interested in the so-called conspiracy, and more focused on my original point, that water collects in puddles in so many other places than pet food bowls, specifically, that a science blog failed to address all those other puddles.

            Again…

            Science? 😉

  • Dan Keown

    You can actually use some of these posters to provide realtime coverage of GM debates on the internet. Its almost as though they’re being paid to post!

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      If the only argument you have is that everyone who posts on here is paid, then you have no argument. Here’s the crux of it all: even if they are paid, why can’t you demonstrate they’re wrong? If the arguments you disagree with are so flimsy and only exist because someone threw them a few bucks, then why can’t you actually construct an argument which addresses either the points of this article or of their comments? Why would it even matter if they’re paid if they’re right? Your attempt to ad hominem attack everyone who disagrees with you belies the weakness of your position. And frankly, I’m tired of your lack of substantative comments. You’re welcome to disagree and engage in rational discussions about the content of the post. But consider yourself warned; either start making actual arguments rather than ad hominem attacks, or lose your commenting privileges.

    • Bill Carey

      In the overall scheme of things it makes much more sense than the spewing you perform gratis.

    • Rickinreallife

      Please keep your needles away from my children and grandchildren. I don’t often dismiss GE skeptics, even when I completely disagree with them, but your hatred and ignorance is epic, and willingness to cash in on the ignorance of others is disgraceful. You are morally and intellectually bankrupt.

  • Dan Keown

    OK, Christie lets talk science. Firstly, you make the epidemiological horror of confusing microcephaly reporting with Zika case reporting (the map of incidence of ‘zika’ is actually ‘microcephaly’). This is such a terrible basic mistake that it makes the rest of the article worthless…

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      Nice try, but describing that map as the “epicenter” was done by the conspiracy theorists – I just combined the maps to show that they aren’t the same location. Have you got a mechanism by which GM mosquitoes cause Zika to cause microcephaly? I’m waiting for the evidence of your theory.

      • Dan Keown

        No, Christie, you clearly confuse microcephaly with Zika in (ironically) a Nicholas Cage type way, probably because someone tweeted that mistake (its under ‘Wrong Place Wrong Time’. Its embarrassing science and you should change it.
        Secondly, what kind of science do you do where a data pool has no validity until you have a theory to explain it? Do you measure octopus numbers and then say “I’ve no theory as to why they’ve increased therefore there can be no reason for them increasing’?!
        Ridiculous, you’re practicing ANTI-science

        • Bill Carey

          Dang it! Just when you were ready to complete your mind-meld too.

    • ostracion

      Also, Dan, even if the outbreak map of Zika and the occurrences of microcephaly map were largely identical, and EVEN IF the epicenter of all of this lined up with the temporal and geographic location of the GM mosquito release…it still doesn’t explain, biologically, how genetic material would not only hop into the miniscule genome of an ssRNA virus, but then into humans to cause microcephaly. Even if you go for the more direct route of GM mosquito directly to humans (Zika not involved), you’d have to explain why a transposon with known low mobility once inserted would spontaneously “jump” (and not any of the other transposons in Aedes mossies that occur normally…which make up a huge chunk of the genome)…AND why the microcephaly is seemingly associated with Zika, regardless of whether or not GM mosquitoes were released in that country (see: French Polynesia last year).

      Even if the Zika and microcephaly occurrence maps were a tight fit to the GM mosquito release (they’re not), the “GM culprit” theory still requires a radical upending of large, fundamental portions of the fields of genetics and virology to work. It’s a big claim, and big claims need hardcore mechanistic evidence to support them. Do you have it?

      • Dan Keown

        No you don’t. When Percival Pott discovered that chimney soot caused scrotal cancer he didn’t know the causative effect. He just knew they were related. And, he was right!

        • ostracion
          • Dominick Dickerson

            That’s amazing.

            When I saw that Danny boy had his bad comments changed to science cat I made the sad trombone noise to myself.

            I’m gonna keep that link close.

    • Bill Carey

      Make sure it’s Infowars science Dan. Don’t be holding out on us. Follow that up with some of that bleeding peripheral acupuncture science as well. Then tell everyone again how you is what am.

  • Erica

    Okay, I am going to be a conspiracy theory commenter here. First off, Lets just say the zika virus does not cause microcephaly. It never has, its in 23 other countries and it isn’t. So, lets just say if the connection of microcephaly was with the GM mosquito the zika connection would only be because the GM mosquito species is the same one that carries zika. That is the only connection with zika. Now, what they are not saying in the article is a couple things. One is females were released in the trials. They always are in small numbers. The GM males survived since birth because of tetracycline. They grew up to adulthood to mate. Why is it not possible that the females without being constantly fed tetracycline, cannot also grow up into adulthood and mate? The males do, so should the females. So, I am not a scientist, but, the GM mosquitoes male and female carry a lethal genetic gene. The gene was created with e coli and herpes 1. Now, is it impossible to think, if the female GM mosquito bit a person, the saliva could not contain this protein? That would mean it would be injected into a humans blood stream. The lethal gene that kills mosquito larva in female mosquitoes. There is one more point in the article they are not pointing out and that is, tetracycline is needed for the survival of the mosquito larva if the mosquito mated with a GM male or if the female was GM herself, well, there is a ton of tetracycline, not in the natural environment, but in humans and domestic animals environments there are. It is excreted unchanged in feces from farm factory animals. It is in our blood stream, It could be in animal food, but also just plain rainwater pooled in areas that mosquito larva incubates. The Caymen Islands may have GM mosquitoes, but they don’t have factory farms with animals being fed high doses of tetracycline either like Brazil. Just saying, there are more scenarios than we can imagine. Female GM mosquitoes breeding with wild males, what happens to the larva then? There were never any tests done on humans is the point. Not on pregnant humans. Did they let a female GM mosquito survive into adulthood, bite a pregnant human and see what happened to the baby? No. I am also going to post one more post that I read, before I say one more thing, mosquitoes fly and they breed other places they were released and to say all the cases have to be in the same exact town of trial releases is not being realistic to the fact they can fly and be carried. Plus the trials have been going on since 2010 in very small trials, the first large one was in the Bahia state 6 hours from the city of pernambuco in 2013. the mosquito that is genetically modified and it is the Aedes aegypti and it carries zika. Trials of the OX513A Aedes aegypti GM mosquitoes in Brazil were centered around Pernambuco- where the highest concentration of microcephalic cases are being found. The killer protein strain is made of E. coli and herpes 1. These can cause microcephalic disformities if the mother is a carrier during pregnancy. Zika has not been proven to be the cause of the microcephalitic outbreak. Cases went from less than 300 in Brazil to over 3800 since the OX513A trials in 2010. Horizontal genetic transfer was noted as a possible risk to humans by the University of Pernambuco before the trials, but dismissed, and trials were given the green light. The GM mosquito was created with a lethal gene that would be passed from a male to a wild female and reduce the mosquito population. This has worked, but the issue is females in small quantities are released too, because the process of male and female separation is manual and not perfect. The female GM mosquitoes bite and and possibly transmit this protein in their saliva to humans. If the larva they carry comes in contact either in blood or in developing in water with tetracycline, the larva can survive into adulthood and mate and continue the life cycle until the larva is deprived of tetracycline, in which case, the larva will die.There are 100 thousand signatures in the Florida Keys of residents that don’t feel like enough research was done on the mosquitoes for them to be released, they have not been approved by the FDA.

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      If DNA transfer occurred when mosquitoes bite, and that DNA could make its way into our cells, then non-GM mosquitoes would mutate us every day. The mosquito genome is 47% transposons—why have those genes never jumped into our cells? For that matter, why haven’t the genes of all the bacteria on our skin whenever we get a cut? Why don’t you get vegetable genes in your body when you cut yourself chopping food? The answer is because that’s just not how genetics work. Our cells don’t just soak up genes from DNA that gets into our bodies, even if it’s injected into our blood. And the concentration of the protein by itself wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to cause damage. As I explained in my post from last year:

      Because of this, some seem to be arguing that if, and it’s a big if, people were to start getting bitten by mutant mosquitoes, horrible things would happen because there are “unknown dangers” posed by this foreign DNA. “These females can and do bite, potentially inserting their modified DNA into people,” says The Atlantic. I can only assume they are talking about one of two possibilities: that the proteins the synthetic DNA creates are potential allergens, or that the DNA might somehow cause unforeseen genetic changes in people.

      The first is highly unlikely. Oxitec isn’t stupid: if they released a mosquito that was producing a new allergen in its saliva, the backlash would be intense and potentially bankrupting. So they’ve checked. They’ve included their investigation into the allergenicity potential of the larvae-killing protein—tTAV—in their technical releases. The officials which conducted the risk assessment for the release of GM mosquitoes in Brazil said that Oxitec has completed “a thorough study” and that they “rightly concluded that protein fails to exhibit allergenic potential.” They went on to say that “though there is a small probability of an individual being repeatedly bitten by female GM mosquitoes, the protein is not allergenic and the damage is null.”

      As for the second potential danger, let me be unequivocal: there’s simply no way that even if you were bitten by a GM mosquito, any DNA from the mosquito would alter your DNA in any way or otherwise cause you harm. That’s simply not how biology works.

      It’s not easy to make a genetically modified organism. Cells don’t just “pick up” DNA willy-nilly and insert it into their genomes for fun. If they did, all of us would be hodgepodges of the genes from everything around us. All things that are or were alive contain DNA, which means all of our foods, from corn to chicken, are chock-full of genes—and yet, we manage to eat them every day and our genomes remain intact. When you cut your finger chopping onions, you introduce onion DNA directly into your bloodstream—yet no one would be concerned about potential mutagenic effects. You don’t have to worry about how much DNA you breath in on pollen grains, or whether your yogurt will force yeast genes into your stomach cells, because DNA that enters your body is readily chopped up by enzymes. It does not infect your cells. End of story.

      To modify an organisms’ genome, scientists have had to come up with all sorts of ways to make cells permeable to the DNA they want them to take in. There are a myriad of methods, from heat-shock to nanoparticles. Oxitec literally injects the DNA they want expressed into mosquito eggs alongside a bit of DNA that is designed to help with insertion into the genome, then they heat-shock them, and even after all that they readily admit that their transformation success rate is low (about 1%). And that’s how unlikely it is when the DNA is directly injected into the cell. Think for a second about how a mosquito bites—its proboscis is far too large to inject anything into that small a target. And even if a mosquito were to inject its DNA into one of your cells when it bit (and somehow not cause the cell to explode from the volume), the odds that the tiny piece of synthetic DNA, out of all the genes in mosquito’s genome, would be incorporated into that cell are unfathomably low, and even then it wouldn’t matter: blood cells are final products of our bodies. They don’t split to produce new cells. So if you impossibly got the modified mosquito DNA injected into a blood cell, and it incorporated into the genes of that cell, which is indescribably unlikely, the cell would do one of two things: either the DNA would land somewhere where it isn’t expressed and be completely ignored for the remainder of the cell’s lifespan (less than a month, for a white blood cell), or it would cause the cell to stop working correctly, and the cell would explode, trigger a self-destructive cascade, or be terminated on the spot by immune cells. Either way, the foreign DNA would be chopped up into nucleotides never to be seen again. There’s absolutely no chance that you’ll be transformed or mutated. None.

      • Erica

        Do you understand what horizontal gene transfer is?

        • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

          Yes. Do you? Can you describe how it occurs? Or how often it has occurred between insects and humans? Or how often it as occurred between humans and any other animals? Do you have any examples of horizontal gene transfer from an animal into the human genome in the past century? How about thousand years? In fact, there has never been a case of an animal gene transferring into our genome.

          Some scientists have claimed there are examples — from long, long long ago — of bacterial genes, but even that claim has been refuted by other scientists. So if I’m understanding your argument, you believe that the first ever case of gene transfer from an animal into a human has not only occurred once, but thousands of times, over and over in each pregnant woman, to cause microcephaly? That this is spontaneously happening at an unprecedented rate, and somehow, all of the epidemiologists studying the microcephaly have missed this fact?

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            And even if you’re right, and somehow this GM transposon is hopping into babies by the thousands, then you are also saying the transposon is landing somewhere where it is expressed so that it causes harm by making the killer protein. And if that were the case, then all of the babies would also express the marker for the transposon, because the transposon contains a fluorescent protein gene. So not only have all of the doctors and scientists studying these cases missed the fact that the children have mosquito genes, they have also missed the fact that the babies fluoresce?

          • Erica

            Let’s think about this, you don’t know how a virus or gene or a genetically modified by human gene will react when it is transferred. This is completely new territory here. You have no idea if that marker is transferable. You don’t know if a female GM mosquito mated with a wild male mosquito would have that marker. There are too many unknowns. You cannot possibly think that we are so smart to understand every single development of viruses and bacteria injected into genes and how exactly our new genetic, that we made in the lab mixing viruses and bacteria and who knows what that successfully was transferred into a mosquitos genetic makeup is going to react if injected through saliva into our blood system. You can’t possibly. There were studies that suggested horizontal gene transfer was possible at the University of Pernambuco but, it was never even studied further.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Actually, we do. We know what the genes do — they code for proteins, and we know what those proteins do. We also know how genes are passed from generation to generation. We can predict these patterns. We know how to add genes to and from bacteria; all the insulin that diabetics use and have used for decades comes from genetically modified organisms. Everything that you have just said is well known science that you can learn in a Genetics class. I recommend you take a few more biology courses before assuming that we know nothing about genetics.

          • Erica

            Christie, that is not true. This is completely new territory here. Tell me one example of a human virus and bacteria injected into the cells of an insect or animal that was successful and was accepted into their genetic makeup and had the possibility to be injected into our bloodstream. You just said it has never been done before. A gene from a insect has never been passed to a human so, how is this so predictable? What kind of genetically modified genes made of viruses and e coli which are a lethal combination to mosquito larva, has been tested on a transfer from insect to humans? Please, don’t be condescending here that I am implying we know nothing about genetics. You cannot say this is not new territory here. We are talking about lethal genes here. These were created to be lethal. To kill. They were created to kill developing larva. Developing life.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            If mosquitoes inject DNA into our blood, they all do it every day. So there are insect genes injected into our blood all the time, and not once has that DNA made its way into our genome. For that matter, bacterial genes end up in our blood all the time too—bacteria on our skin get into our blood stream whenever we cut ourselves. And viruses are in there all the time! And those genes simply don’t “jump” into our genomes. I said that what you are claiming—that genes injected into our blood make their way into our genome—has never happened, and it still hasn’t.

            And for that matter, the genes themselves don’t kill—the protein produced does. So the genes can’t do anything until they make their way into our genome to be translated into proteins, and as I have now explained in depth, we know that doesn’t happen, hasn’t happened, and cannot happen. Genetic modification isn’t new territory. We’ve been modifying bacteria and animals for decades, and we can track how the genes act. These mosquitoes have been bred in every way possible and it has been demonstrated that the transposon inserted is passed in a Mendelian manner; that means it doesn’t move within the mosquito genome, let alone out of it.

          • Erica

            Like I said, at the University of Pernambuco Horizontal genetic transfer was considered possible, and this is not just any ordinary genetic makeup. It was not research any further. So, I believe them. Like I said, this is not like any other trial done. Not let in the wild, from mosquitoes that bite humans. This gene combination has never been done in this setting. So, you can say, its impossible. Well, that has been said before. This was never approved either by any official body like the FDA either. It is still not approved for trials in the US.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            I’m afraid you have to provide some kind of citation for whatever you are talking about with the University of Pernambuco — I have not seen anything from them about this. And why didn’t the same mosquitoes cause microcephaly in the other locations they were tested, if they are the cause? This isn’t the first field trial of these animals.

          • Erica

            I am looking for the Pernambuco study, but like I said, in the Cayman Islands and Panama they do not have large factory farms that use large amounts of tetracycline in the environment for the larva to survive like they do in Brazil. There have been microcephaly cases in Brazil since 2010 when the trials were first tested, but they were very small. I think tetracycline is the key for the ability for them to reproduce in the wild. The Horizontal genetic transfer idea has been published in other articles, so it must not be that far out. Here is one from Popular Science published in 2011. But the problem is that we don’t fully understand how mosquitoes and the diseases they carry would adapt in response to such experiments. New strains of malaria and other diseases could emerge. Jo Lines, a malaria expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has described the process as “a series of arms races that the [malaria] parasite has consistently won.” Three percent of the offspring from Oxitec’s tetracycline-dependent mosquitoes survive—what happens if those bugs breed with wild mosquitoes?

            It’s even possible that the changes we induce in mosquitoes could move into other animals. Horizontal gene transfer could result in midges, gnats and black flies developing the same mutations, including the unfortunate characteristic of dying shortly after hatching—and a mass die-off of insects that provide sustenance to birds, bats, frogs and fish would be a food-chain disaster. I’ll post the University publication if I can find it. I read it as a reference to the transfer theory.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            You do not seem to have included a link. And, for the record, Popular Science is not a peer-reviewed journal. And the kind of arms races you are talking about take millions of years of evolution, not the blink of an eye.

            If those breed, then only 3% of their offspring will survive. And so on. But more importantly, they monitored the mosquito populations before and after the release, and quickly after the release was complete, there was no trace of the GM mosquitoes in the population. That’s what the fluorescent protein is for — so they can track if the mosquitoes survive, so we know they didn’t.

          • Erica

            I know it is not peer reviewed, I am just saying, it’s not like anyone else thought it would be impossible. I am going to call tomorrow to find the Pernambuco study. So, If I find it, I will give you the link, I read it as a reference in another article. 3 percent was just an estimate. It has been high as 15 percent in some cases, and it still would not matter if they reproduced. They said they release about 1 female in every 3000 males. Even if the initial release bit people, that would, if the trial was large enough, have an effect. The ability for them to reproduce or mate with a potential wild male is just another possibility. There is no way to track every mosquito out of millions. We are talking about thousands of mosquitoes that could very well go undetected. They do not claim to only release males. So, what is your thoughts on the microcephaly?

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Now you’re changing your argument. If the mosquitoes had to be released as females, didn’t breed, and then died, then they’re long dead — mosquitoes, even GM ones, only live a matter of weeks. So there’s no way there would be females around to bite pregnant women now. And if they did breed, then they would be able to detect those larvae in the population when they survey the mosquito larvae for the fluorescent protein.

            As for what I think: I think that the Zika virus, like other flaviviruses, causes neurological complications on rare occasions. I think the Brazilian population has not experienced this pathogen before, and thus pregnant women are experiencing Zika infections and some of them—a small proportion, compared to the number of people infected with the virus—are experiencing rare complications. The current outbreak and the microcephaly associated is simply a result of a relatively newly discovered virus introduced into a new population where there is no resistance to it. This would explain the microcephaly seen in the French Polynesia Zika outbreak, where there are no GM mosquitoes, as well as the lack of microcephaly in the other areas the GM mosquitoes were released.

          • Erica

            We? The scientific community is all knowing about horizontal gene transfer of human modified genes that are made up of viruses and bacteria injected into cells of mosquitoes? http://www.i-sis.org.uk/horizontal.php

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Citing a widely discredited conspiracy site does not make your argument stronger. There is a reason that her hypotheses have not passed peer review.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I don’t mean to just pooh pooh your source, but I’m gonna have to pooh-pooh your source.

            Mae Won Ho has just about as much credibility on these issues as the other more famous ISIS does.

            Going to I-sis for information about biotechnology is like going to the Discovery Institute for information about evolution.

          • Erica

            What Science Sushi is peer reviewed? My argument has not changed. Female GM mosquitoes can live long enough to mate and suck blood from humans and transfer genetic makeup into our blood stream. From the moment they are let loose, they can find tetracycline in water in the environment to drink and bolster their life span. You don’t have to detect these mosquitoes. They live bite and die or they live bite and reproduce. Either way, the population is so small in the thousands, you would not even necessarily find them. There have been no real credible study of these mosquitoes is the bottom line. You do not release a genetically modified mosquito into the wild with a protein made up of E coli and Herpes unless a unbiased federal regulatory department like the FDA has done extensive research.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            So how are these mosquitoes, which you say are so rare that we cannot detect them when we survey mosquito populations, possibly causing an outbreak of thousands of cases 400 miles away from where they were released? Either they reproduced enough to become a problem and be prevalent in the entire outbreak area, or they didn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

            And what, now you’re saying the Brazilians have to have the U.S. FDA review and make their decisions for them? Because the Brazilian regulatory authorities already did a risk assessment, and found

            “Risk assessment is a robust process and leads to consistent results, both for GM plants and for other GMOs

            The RIDL OX513A Aedes aegypti strain does not pose significant risk for the environment or for human/animal health in Brazil”

            You can also read the entire risk assessment yourself: https://bch.cbd.int/database/record.shtml?documentid=105831. Apparently you think that other countries can’t make their own decisions?

          • Erica

            1 female in 3,000 males how many millions of males are released. That is thousands of mosquitoes. That is enough to cause an epidemic if they survive and bite humans if in fact there is some sort of bacterial, viral, genetic transfer of some sort. You are saying, they would have found a mosquito with the marker. What if the female mated with a wild male? Would the marker be present. Do you think that the risk assessment was enough? for how many years?With how many scientific studies to consider all the repercussions? How many people were bitten by female GM mosquitoes and how many were pregnant? I hope you are right, and GM mosquitoes are not the problem, but theory’s are the only way to test for facts. Am I right? If you don’t ask questions, and think about every single possible outcome or possibility, you will never have a good study and never figure out facts.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Again, to answer your questions:

            1 female in 3,000 males how many millions of males are released. That is thousands of mosquitoes. That is enough to cause an epidemic if they survive and bite humans if in fact there is some sort of bacterial, viral, genetic transfer of some sort.

            Then how are they causing an epidemic 400 miles away, and *not* where they were released? Did all the GM mosquitoes just decide to leave at once and move? And again, you are just wrong about the facts of biology when it comes to DNA transfer. If this occurred when mosquitoes bite, then we would have mosquito genes in our DNA already. To continue to argue this isn’t the case reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of genetics and how genetic modification occurs.

            You are saying, they would have found a mosquito with the marker. What if the female mated with a wild male? Would the marker be present.

            Yes. Because they did this. That’s what it means when they do tests for Mendelian inheritance — they breed wild types with GMs, and watch where the genes go. So yes, the marker would move with the gene that is right next to it and a part of the transposon, and would be detected.

            Do you think that the risk assessment was enough? for how many years?With how many scientific studies to consider all the repercussions? How many people were bitten by female GM mosquitoes and how many were pregnant?

            Yes. I believe the risk assessment was more than thorough enough, and I trust in the Brazilian scientists to do what is best for their country and their people. The danger posed by all of the diseases that these animals transmit vastly overwhelms any risks posed by the animals, of which horizontal gene transfer into humans *isn’t* one.

            I hope you are right, and GM mosquitoes are not the problem, but theory’s are the only way to test for facts. Am I right? If you don’t ask questions, and think about every single possible outcome or possibility, you will never have a good study and never figure out facts. Everyone freaked out when someone suggested the earth was round too. I don’t know all the answers. But, I do know enough to know my theory could be a possibility that was not studied enough. I think world governments need to come together with many nations testing something this significant. No, I don’t think Brazil and FDA is enough.

            Actually, what you know is enough to think you have the answer and that what you think is plausible, when biologically, it isn’t. You want to believe that there is a danger from genetic modification, and you refuse to accept the evidence that you are wrong. There is not a single credible scientist on this planet who thinks that the GM mosquitoes are causing this. The epidemiologists who are studying the outbreak are looking at every credible option—do you really think that the doctors and scientists would have missed this? That they would have thrown out this hypothesis if there was any likelihood it was true? These people are working around the clock to solve this. You discredit their training and expertise by suggesting that you have the answer that they have missed.

          • Erica

            You call that a robust risk process? It basically reaffirmed all of my fears on, Tetracycline in the environment, no good after release assessment of the remaining GM population of females at large and was was identified was ‘traps’. I guess that is a little like polling a population? Also this was the scariest part of the assessment was this……

            ES

            The first threat identified involves the potential toxicity or allergenicity of the recombinant protein in the insect’s saliva. Although the number of females released may be relatively small against the population of non-GM mosquitos of the same gender, there is a slight possibility that an individual be bitten several times by the GM insects along the period in which the vector is under attack. Allergic reactions could be severe, depending on the allergenic potential of the protein. However, the applicant conducted a thorough study by bioinformatics and rightly concluded that protein fails to exhibit allergenic potential. Therefore, though there is a small probability of an individual being repeatedly bitten by female GM mosquitos, the protein is not allergenic and the damage is null. Okay, got it what was the test? bioinformatics? Right. Pretty sure that is not a test on humans, as the company themselves stated the same thing in this publication……………………Our studies show that the proteins we’ve introduced would not be harmful to humans: We have commissioned research with sophisticated computer programs (known as bioinformatics research), to see if the new proteins have any similarities to known allergens or toxins which could be harmful. We found no similarity to any substance which could present a risk of allergy or toxicity, so we’re confident that the new proteins would not be harmful to people. Confident? Oh. Good on you. I love how you say the protein is unlikely this and unlikely that. Well, glad you are putting a mosquito population into the environment with a man made protein consisting of E coli and Herpes 1 that is ‘unlikely’ to pose a problem when they suck your blood and inject their saliva into your blood stream. You know because mosquitoes only are capable of carrying some of the most deadly virus known to man, in their little flying transporting injecting machines. Like little enclosed virus bombs. http://www.oxitec.com/news-and-views/topic-pages-safety-and-sustainability/what-happens-if-female-mosquitoes-are-released/ If your theory of zika affecting these women in Brazil was correct, then why is the virus in 23 other countries and not having a microcephaly epidemic. Surely some of these places women do not have immunity to zika like in Brazil? Protein transfer and gene transfer is logical. It is possible. The tests they have put forth are hardly convincing. Tetracycline in the environment is real. It is sold in the tons to the animal meat industry. This is new science. Insect and animal life has evolved for billions of years and has evolved and adapted over that amount of time. I really don’t think that to question the possibility of a human protein that is derived from a bacteria and a virus injected into a disease caring machine, that injects DNA into people should be looked as a conspiracy theory.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            I don’t know what amazes me more: your complete inability to understand the science which demonstrates that your beliefs are wrong, or your audacity in presuming you know how to do science better than every expert, especially the ones in Brazil that evaluated the risks. I talked to the scientists at the University of Pernambuco, by the way; Dr. Paulo Andrade was one of those scientists you think doesn’t know how to do his job. And to say that he and the other assessors were concerned about gene transfer is twisting their words. Here’s what he said to me:

            “Horizontal gene transfer is essentially impossible among eukaryotes and specially between a mosquito and a human being. The question, however, was asked by the public. As a risk assessor at the Brazilian National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) I considered and eventually discarded all questions arrived from different sources, however improbable they may be. This was the case of HGT in transgenic mosquitoes, both between mosquitoes and man or mosquitoes and any other organism.”

            But what would he know? He’s just an expert. You clearly understand genetics better than anyone else on Earth.

            Furthermore, I’ve literally told you several times that in at least one other area where there has been an outbreak of Zika, there has been a rise in microcephaly – you just choose to ignore facts that disagree with your position. And rare complications are tough to spot – there have been tens of thousands of Zika cases, and only a couple hundred confirmed cases of microcephaly (and several hundred reported possible cases that turned out not to be).

            But I’m done humoring your ego. If you refuse to examine scientific evidence and believe that you know more than the Braziliam scientists, then there’s no discussion to be had. Enjoy your tin foil hat.

          • Erica

            It isn’t proven. There are a lot more possibilities than gene transfer, to contend with and this is no ordinary mosquito gene we are talking about here that has developed over millions of years. This is a man made gene made from a virus that already can and does effect humans. E coli is a bacteria. These traits might well be bypassed in the presence of tetracycline, but they are active otherwise. Like I said, it is you with the tin foil hat, just fed whatever information is fed to you. All trusting that a completely new science would behave just like all the other science out there. They don’t know what they are looking for in these microcephaly cases because they have never seen it. Got it? This is brand new. So one other case of microcephaly out of 23 other countries. Right. Good statistics. You are the one ignoring the fact, or the lack there of. You don’t know how this gene is able to react because it is brand new. Nothing has been proven is the point. Their assessments are only half truths, because you would not be able to know about something that is brand new. This is brand new science no mater how many decades they have been doing bio genetics. Bio genetics in a mosquito with a lethal gene that can be turned on an off with a antibiotic is brand new.

          • Erica

            ‘Essentially’ impossible is the key word in his assessment. That is like virtual, almost but not quite.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Even though you cannot provide a single shred of evidence that the GM mosquitoes are even present where the cases of microcephaly are occurring, or any biologically possible mechanism for them to cause the outbreak, or even any logical basis for your belief, you must be right. We should fire all the scientists and doctors involved in this and just hire you to be the scientific advisor in Brazil, as clearly you’re the only one who knows what’s going on. It’s clearly not possible that they know the science better than you do, have studied biology, genetics, and medicine in more depth than you have, and know what to look for or what might cause microcephaly. Because your naturalistic fallacy makes way more sense than decades of research, lab work, and field trials. Obviously.

          • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

            Erica, have you heard of the Dunning Kruger effect? Wiki describes Dunning Kruger thusly:

            The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately.

            You are clearly a textbook case. You are no different from the vast army of ill-informed anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers who troll internet forums and waste people’s time with nonsense. I think it is a credit to Christie that she has spent so much time trying to educate you and a discredit to you that you would prefer to remain smugly ignorant. Your behaviour is embarrassing to watch. Please grow up.

          • Paulo Andrade

            Dr. Wilcox, thanks for your scientific support to our fight against the science detractors and the explorers of public fears. My country is facing a real menace and we must use all possible weapons to fight Aedes aegypti. The Oxitec mosquito was long evaluated by the Brazilian National GMO authority and was considered to be safe. It will possibly be used as one of the many tools to control vector populations. The spread of such fantasies as those from Reddit is a shame and is indeed detrimental to my country and my people. Again, thanks for so clearly showing the pitfalls of the “theory”

          • Bill Carey

            Isn’t it cool not to have to rely on anyone else for affirmations?

          • Erica

            I will rely on the affirmation when someone has made a definite and proven link to microcephaly in these cases. Zika has not been proven, but apparently, Christie has accepted the theory as truth.

          • Bill Carey

            It doesn’t appear as if you need anyone else to affirm or validate any of your conclusions.

          • Dan Keown

            See, that attitude again is anti-scientific. Do you think Einstein or Newton or Galileo would have said they know everything about their respective fields. Of course not! There is such a thing as scientific hubris. It wouldnt even be so bad if you’d got your basic science right, but you havent!

          • Erica

            Christie, let’s understand the gene we are talking about. This is no ordinary mosquito gene. That is why it has never happened before. This is a man made genetic made up of E coli, Herpes 1 virus, cabbage and other things that humans can transfer into their cells just fine. Think about herpes 1, it explodes into our cells.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Um… I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any cabbage genes in my genome. Or E. coli genes, for that matter. Or herpes genes. None of those have ever horizontally transferred into a human genome. Herpes is a virus which steals our cellular machinery to replicate, but it can only do so with the entire herpes genome — a single herpes gene wouldn’t be able to initiate replication. And to get into our cells in the first place, the herpes virus requires its viral packaging — the virion — which the transposon in GM mosquitoes doesn’t have.

          • Gordon Ingram

            I think this is an oversimplification. Many retroviruses seem to have become incorporated into the human genome:

            http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/02/01/our-inner-viruses-forty-million-years-in-the-making/

            And apart from these ancient relics, of course it’s pretty well known (even by non-biologists like me) that viruses can cause cancer by altering nuclear DNA:

            http://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5866/1096.short

            I believe wart cells are also often a kind of human/virus chimera although I haven’t seen a reference for that recently.

            Finally this article suggests that herpes virus too can form chimeras:

            http://www.nature.com/articles/srep11534?message-global=remove&WT.ec_id=SREP-631-20150714&spMailingID=49093380&spUserID=ODkwMTM2NjQzMAS2&spJobID=721740393&spReportId=NzIxNzQwMzkzS0

            Not to say that these would often enter the germ line, of course, but occasionally they would. And it is easy to see how if a virus changed the DNA of critical stem cells during embryonic development, it could lead to something like microcephaly.

          • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

            Retroviruses are very different than flaviviruses like Zika (or a plant like cabbage, for that matter)—putting themselves into the genome to get replicated is what they do (like HIV, for example), and they have specific proteins that aid in that efforts. Here’s an overview of how they work: https://web.stanford.edu/group/nolan/_OldWebsite/tutorials/ret_2_lifecyc.html

            We know that the transposon used in the GM mosquitoes does not have the genes necessary to enter the nucleus on its own. To even get it into the mosquito genome in the first place, the transposon had to be injected into fertilized eggs alongside proteins that help it insert into the genome. And even when injected directly into a cell, and when given the proteins to insert into the genome, the transfection rate is still very, very low (~1%).

            But even more importantly, we know that the transposon isn’t in the Zika genome, as the Zika strains in Brazil have been sequenced. So there’s no chance that the transposon is hitching a ride through the virus into the cells.

          • Gordon Ingram

            Yes I know, I wasn’t arguing for the transposon theory this time, just pointing out that some of our cell genomes (albeit abnormal ones) can actually contain herpes DNA. You are right though that HGT between eukaryotes is unknown, or all but. Ironically I would find it easier to accept artificial HGT if it were more common in nature!

          • Pogo333

            Gordon, actually eukaryotic HGT is fairly well known and is increasingly being documented, especially among the fungi and oomycetes. For plants, for example , see Richardson and Palmer’s 2007 review addressing mitochondrial HGT in plants: http://www.ask-force.org/web/HorizontalGT/Richardson-Horizonta-Gene-Transfer-2007.pdf. As more eukaryotic genomes are characterized we will get a better idea of the prevalence of HGT among eukaryotes.

          • Paulo Andrade

            But keep in mind that transposon HT takes millions of years to occur. No one even saw or produced such an event and the mechanism is unknown.

          • Pogo333

            “Eukaryote–eukaryote transfer of nuclear genes is underestimated for a number of reasons: the sampling of most eukaryotic genes is only now approaching the level needed to see such events; there is extensive, often confounding, gene duplication within many nuclear genomes; and there has not, to our knowledge, been any systematic search of completely sequenced genomes for within-eukaryote HGT (this is not true for EST projects, in which several large-scale searches for HGT have been carried out, see Refs 51, 52, 73, 77, 78 for examples). Given all this, it is noteworthy how many gene phylogenies have led to the conclusion that genes are in fact transferred between eukaryotes (10, 11, 26, 27, 51, 59, 60, 62, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83). Many of these acquired genes replaced an existing homologue rather than introducing a new function, but this might largely reflect the way these transfers were detected rather than any real bias. Indeed, cases in which novel functions have been acquired are particularly well described in fungi, and include changes to mating that can affect population structure (81, 84), uptake and synthesis of small molecules (48, 82, 85), or the transfer of virulence factors (80). This last case is notable for its recentness: an 11 kb region containing a toxin gene is thought to have been transferred to a previously avirulent fungal species only about 70 years ago. Many of these are transfers between two fungi (some of which were closely related strains (86)), but fungal genes have been transferred to other eukaryotic groups with important effects: in one particularly interesting case, 11 genes from filamentous fungi were found in oomycetes, and because many of these have important functions in osmotrophy this led to the conclusion that HGT played a part in the convergent adaptation to plant pathogenesis in the two groups (79).” (Keeling and Palmer, 2008; Nature Review Genetics 9: 605-618; http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v9/n8/full/nrg2386.html)

            The point here is that we are very much in the dark as to how frequently HGT occurs in eukaryotes because of very limited gene (and specific allele) sequencing, but the authors cite at least one known example above that is believed to have occurred about 70 years ago based on convergence estimates.

          • Paulo Andrade

            HGT is getting a push from the sequencing programs, but it remains a topic on evolution .

          • Pogo333

            I absolutely agree. It will be interesting to see what we learn as more genomes are sequenced and genes clarified. I suspect we will see many more recent transfers as we know more about who has which genes.

      • Erica

        Christie, Hi. Do you understand how horizontal genetic transfer works?

      • Julie Rosenwinkel
  • Frank Woolf

    As usual ignorance arguing with ignorance. The simple fact is that a tiny number of people (about 200 I think) of hundreds of thousands infected with Zika also have microcephaly. NOTHNG has been found to show any evidence whatever that Zika causes microcephaly or that Zika is any more dangerous than when it was discovered after WWII. It is just another scam to get millions of people to accept yet another vaccine that is almost certain to be far more dangerous than Zika.

  • KlingonOffTheStarboardBow

    You need to do a summary, or better a short list of conclusions; few laymen can wade through this lot successfully, thorough and convincing though it is.

    “Conspiracy theorists” do not trust governments, the military industrial complex or big pharma, and there are good reasons for this. Treating them in a patronising or arrogant way is inappropriate.

  • Julie Shelton

    Thanks for explaining this. I really didn’t understand what was going on.

  • Julie Shelton

    And I did read the whole article…

  • Julie Rosenwinkel

    Cases of microcephaly have also been in the reported in the Piracabada Sau Paulo / Rio de Janeiro area also.

    • Paulo Andrade

      Julie, Piracicaba did not see any increase in microcephaly cases, in spite of the release of more than 20 million GM mosquitoes. The microcephaly epidemics has nothing to do with the GM mosquito.

      • Julie Rosenwinkel

        The ministry’s emergency response official, Wanderson Oliveira, said most of the cases of microcephaly remain concentrated in Brazil’s poor northeastern region. However, the developed southeast where Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are located is the second hardest-hit region.

        Oliviera spoke at a press conference Wednesday.http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/zika-brazil-1.3412159

        • Paulo Andrade

          And so? What is the connection of your info and the millions of GM insects in Piracicaba, with no cases of microcephaly?

          • Julie Rosenwinkel

            Piracicaba is in the South East closer to Sao Paulo where cases have been identified. But, there is a suspect of Pesticides in drinking water to control mosquitoes which may be the culprit anyways.

  • OrganiCrusader

    Zika has spread far and wide, Using distance to attempt to refute this claim proves nothing.

    Perhaps you could comment about the method in which the Mosquito had been Genetically Engineered and the potential for transposons to horizontally transfer to the virus.

    • Paulo Andrade

      The GM mosquito lacks a transposase and the insert (part of a transposon) is exactly in the same location for hundreds of generations. Moreover, transposons dont move from dsDNA to ssRNA. The whole hypothesis of HGT from GM mosquitoses to zika virus must therefore be dismissed as impossible. In fact, sequencing of the circulating ZIKV strain from Brazil proves it is a normal ZIKV.

      • Julie Rosenwinkel

        Paulo, Who said that the gene had to jump in zika? Who said it had to jump in any other DNA? Just because it was stable in the mosquito, does not mean it would be stable in a human. This gene was engineered with the piggyBac transposon

        • Dominick Dickerson

          So do other flaviviruses, the family that contains Zika.

          I think the link is still tentative. It’s certainly not doubtful.

          Why are you so dead set to finger the gm mosquito as the cause?

          • Paulo Andrade

            It is certainly a fantasy coming from people that ingore the vector, mosquito and virus biology.

        • Paulo Andrade

          Julie, please consider that the insert in OX513A has only the 5´ and 3´ ends of a trasponso In the lack of an appropriate transposase (it is sequene specific) that doens not exist either in man, mosquito or virus, there is absolutely no chance of transposition.

    • ostracion

      Did you even read the article? Or any of the comments? The author goes into extensive detail over why the hopping transposon concern is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the biology of transgenics.
      Your “gotcha” point is literally addressed directly in the article above you. The one you are trash-talking.

      But then again, I understand. Reading is hard.

      • Julie Rosenwinkel

        If you do not think that gene hopping with the piggy back transposon method of gene transfer is possible, then maybe you need to understand the basic biology of transgenics Ostracion.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3701635/

          “While capable of being used as a vector for the creation of transgenic insects and insect cell lines, piggyBac has very limited mobility once integrated into the genome of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. “

          • Julie Rosenwinkel

            Dominick, Just curious if you know exactly( or anyone else reading this) how this gene works to kill larva passed on to the female mosquito? Lets just say it is not the gene jumping out of the cell. The gene is transferred via semen to the female larva, then at what stage and in what action does the gene kill the larva? I am not implying that the females can transmit this gene via saliva.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I’ll let oxitecs own website answer that question in great detail.

            http://www.oxitec.com/ridl-science/understanding-ridl-science/molecular-biology/

            But the short version: the gene in question codes for the production of a protein that inhibits the expression of other genes. This causes the insects to produce larvae as initially there is none of this protein in the insects cells. However as the larva grow, higher and higher concentrations of the protein inhibit more and more expression eventually leading to death before the larvae pupate into adults.

            The gene in question could not be transmitted via saliva as it is stably integrated within the mosquitos genome. And even if it could get into the saliva (which it can’t)it would then have to cross into the host and then integrate itself into the DNA of the host that the mosquito bit and that simply doesn’t happen.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      I’m pretty sure Dr. Wilcox addressed this very point.

      I would re-read the article.

  • Joe333

    They say that there is no possibility that their GMO mosquitoes have anything to do with this but the fact remains that they engaged in a large scale artificial selection of mosquitoes in that area and now the ones left have worse human transmittable viruses

    Same thing as antibacterial soap

    • Dominick Dickerson

      But the selection pressure in this case was on the mosquitos not the virus. Why would that make the viruses “worse”?

      And in the actual areas where the field tests were conducted Brazilian scientists indicated very positive results.

  • Gordon Ingram

    A useful reminder that even the link between zika and microcephaly is far from proven:

    http://www.nature.com/news/proving-zika-link-to-birth-defects-poses-huge-challenge-1.19330

    From a quick read the evidence looks very suggestive actually, but I admit that I did take the link too much for granted in my earliest posts here.

  • Julie Rosenwinkel

    Yes Gordon that is true. I doubt the zika virus has anything to do with the microcephaly cases. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/more-than-3100-pregnant-colombian-women-have-zika-virus-govt_us_56b76654e4b08069c7a79e51

    • Gordon Ingram

      Mmm Julie thanks for the upvote but that’s not really what the story I posted is saying. It’s saying that there probably is a link, but it’s very difficult to prove one way or another. Of course it’s entirely another question why the mainstream media was so quick to assume that there was a link. That is very difficult to answer but probably has a lot to do with the lack of scientific literacy among most journalists (among many other factors).

      • Julie Rosenwinkel

        Well, it is interesting that they mention in your article that the vast majority of women with zika in have healthy babies. I wonder what other places, in seven other countries they are referring to that have cases of microcephaly?

        • Gordon Ingram

          Yes, it is certainly important to note that if even if there is a genuine link only a small minority of pregnant women infected with zika have babies that suffer from microcephaly. As other commenters such as Dominick Dickerson have noted, this (along with herd immunity in places like Africa) could explain why the link was not observed before in smaller countries that had zika outbreaks (I think Reunion and/or other Indian Ocean countries were mentioned). Brazil is of course a very populous country, which would make any weak link more statistically noticeable.

      • http://tedminer.blogspot.com.au/ Captain Moonlight

        You and I must read different mainstream media. What I have seen is mostly articles that correctly indicate that relevant authorities are treating Zika is the chief culprit at this point in time.

        • Gordon Ingram

          Yes the mainstream articles do seem to have picked up on the scientific uncertainty now. What I was referring to was the articles and news reports that came out a month or two ago when I first became aware of the zika epidemic. These seemed much more uncritical about linking it to microcephaly. But you’re right, that is based solely on my personal impression and as such may well be flawed.

  • Paulo Andrade

    Nathan, the actual survival rate is much lower, well below 1%, and just for one generation. It is simply impossible for the GM mosquito to establish a successful population in a city after its release. In the city of Piracicaba, São Paulo State, more than 25 million GM mosquitoes (99% males) were released and there is no evidence that they can survive for more than a few days. This is exactly what was shown in the experimental field releases in Juazeiro da Bahia, in 2011/2012.

  • ccraintree

    When you look at even two paragraphs of type on a page, written to a level of comprehension above that of a the third grader, there is this backlash. Science is, thanks to Frankenstein conglomerates like Monsanto (and their haphazard GM research and accountability), are looking at an uphill battle, even when they present real solutions. While this article is trying to share common sense facts, here, the general public is simply too uneducated to “get it”.

    Even when journalists or scientists believe they are talking down enough to be understood, they generally miss that mark. Basically, you will loose the majority of the readership in any random group, because they simply can not comprehend the topic. Or, as is often the case, they will allow their confirmation bias (and fears) to guide their view, instead.

    This inability to process new information adequately (above the third grade level) allows ignorance to drive the bus (metaphorically speaking), in spite of irrefutable data or even common sense. Science clearly doesn’t have a chance in an uneducated environment.

    Yes, the general public may simply be to stupid to understand autocidal GM mosquitoes population control (or anything else above their minimal education or religious dogmas, for that matter). Take global warming for example. Sadly, the common man is too often unable to comprehend how winters can be getting colder if, as scientists predict, the planet is getting dangerously warming. This denial of profound evidence is clearly driven by ignorance of the subject and by individual confirmation bias and fears.

    This Zika prevention option is completely transparent. It is self-limiting and hurts nothing but the offspring of a female mosquito. A single strand of introduced RNA (not DNA) alters decedents of these GM “mating” mosquitoes to die before they replicate (reproduce) . . . period. That’s it. They can’t transmit anything, not even to another mosquito, unless they have intercourse with another mosquito. If they do, their offspring die. Which is why they call it an end-stage, with no repercussions.

    Mosquito offspring will die before they can breed. NO consequences other than fewer mosquito in the world. (This is exactly what good GM looks like, by the way. This means, In NO WAY is it similar to Monsanto’s poorly controlled GMO crops nor their nasty pesticide Roundup’s cancer clusters. It can not spread to anything ir to anyone, other than the first generation mosquito (through mating, which then dies of natural cause before old enough to mate). The GM mosquito line is dead because offspring can’t find a necessary element it now requires to live to an age where it can breed. End of story!

    Just look at the idiotic posts, here, for confirmation of this sad reality that way too many people (or populations of people) siimply can’t grasp even the huge difference between a simple mechanical death scenario for mosquitoes and what Monsanto Corporation does to harm the planet every day without anyone to stop them.

    People, to be very clear, are their own worst enemy. Until the education level is increased, significantly, this sad reality will continue to plague science and research cures for diseases and world progress to a crawl.

  • Yuning Chen

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001467/
    There were GM mosquitoes in French Polynesia in 2010. It would be nice if you correct your statement.

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      It would behoove you to read your own sources. That paper says “2010 French Polynesia: sustained release of Ae. polynesiensis males infected with a Wolbachia strain from Ae. riversi for IIT trial”. IIT = Incompatible Insect Technique.

      If you had read the reference linked to (which is open access), you would have discovered that the mosquitoes weren’t genetically modified at all—they were infected with a bacteria which is incompatible with the wild type of mosquito, leading to death of the larvae (IIT). Here’s the study explaining the French Polynesia trials: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149012/

      And no, the bacteria aren’t genetically modified, either. They’re from another moqsuito. They were made by hybridization—”interspecific hybridization and introgression results in an A. polynesiensis strain (‘CP’ strain) that is stably infected with the endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria from Aedes riversi.” http://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0000129

      • Yuning Chen

        I see, thank you for correcting my error. I will delete my false comment.

  • doug bishop

    lyme disease, plum island, sounds familiar

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.cousins.14 David Cousins

    You lost me at “climate change is really happening”….I assume you mean the myth of man made “climate change”….regardless of your bias in favor of the GREEN RELIGION, you may be right about Zika….but I won’t be able to finish the article to find out….I’m tired of the FALSE PROPHETS of the GREEN RELIGION…

    • ostracion

      I will not poke the stupid, I will not poke the stupid, I will not poke the stupid…..

  • http://SchatziesEarthProject.com/ Schatzie’s Earth Project
    • ostracion

      1) The name of the blog is Science Sushi. Already off to a bad start.

      2) In your article, the “gotcha” point you make is that GM mosquitoes were released in French Polynesia in 2010. Wrong. They were not genetically-modified. The method of control used there is something called “incompatible insect technique”, something you should have seen considering you took the time to include a copy of the table (which includes this information) in the review article. This means that the mosquitoes were infected with a hybrid (not GM) strain of Wolbachia bacterium that is incompatible with the endemic species of mosquito, leading to death of the larvae.

      3) Your link to Shimatsu’s article is amusing, considering that their article is entirely devoid of any scientific citation for their claims of a mechanism driving GM mosquito-caused microcephaly, and the fact that Shimatsu is a purveyor of self-described organic insect control measures and is openly hostile towards biotech. But no, I’m sure there’s no bias there…

      That’s just a start, but I’ll stop there.

    • ostracion

      Oh, and it’s “Dr. Maggot.” Not Miss Maggot. Dr. Wilcox is a PhD-level biologist.

  • Jm dedelreu

    Inflammation due to junk food with poisons pesticides and herbicides, induces epidemic of obesity, diabete, autisme, quite real, so that this virus is quite more dangerous than on healthy people eating organic since before their birth !!

  • Dan M

    This is an excellent article that clearly explains both Zika and GM “mozzies”. That said, I wish scientists in this field had a boatload more humility, admitting that they don’t know what they don’t know. I am a geologist by education and a business solutions architect by trade for the last 30 years, and IMHO there is a LOT of hubris in the scientific community borne out of ridiculous expectations created by technologists and marketers, as well as the push back by regular folks when the cities of tomorrow, flying cars, cyclimates, saccharin, and red dye number whatever show scientists to be less than omniscient.

    Humanity has a terrible record of its most promising technology going off the ranch and its knowledge being used by bad people to do more bad things on a larger scale. As pointed out in the article, DDT had largely eradicated all mosquito borne illnesses, and was absolutely harmless to humans who were virtually bathed in it during WW2 and thereafter. We seem to understand chemistry a lot better than we understand genetics. I would have hoped we could modify DDT to not make raptor egg shells soft rather than ban it. Conservative figures I have read point to at least 40 million lives lost to mosquito borne illnesses (Malaria alone is a lot of that number), that could have been prevented with a modified DDT.

    Nothing in the article indicates the slightest bit of doubt of geneticists in their all-knowing-ness. That should freak us all out – especially the tin foil hat wearing cats.

  • Derek Marshburns

    Fantastic writing – Coincidentally , people need to fill out a a form , my boss filled out and faxed a template document here http://goo.gl/04YVfZ

  • Kris Milochik

    Yes, Zika has been around for a long time, but, the potential link between Zika and microcephaly never came up until after the release of the genetically altered mosquitoes. What is the chance that the alteration of the mosquitoes and the potential for offspring to survive, has enabled the virus itself, to mutate, thus causing microcephaly?

  • Maynex

    The article stated that male mosquitoes don’t bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. This statement is misleading as it gloss over the fact that whatever pathogen infected the male mosquitoes will also infect female mosquitos, and female mosquitos can pass on the pathogen to humans!

  • Tara Coleman

    The main concern about microcephaly outbreak is that it may or may not be from Zika.. And it may be from what was added to Brazil drinking water to curb mosquitos http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/02/18/467138913/did-a-pesticide-cause-microcephaly-in-brazil-unlikely-say-experts. The microcephaly is a previously unknown side effect from Zika infection, starting in Brazil.

  • BT.IC

    I really hope that those conspiracists are just trolling because this is the kind of stupid that makes me want to slam my head into a wall. This doesn’t help with the fear surrounding biotech processes and products that are already so widespread in the world.

  • Pat Taylor
  • Pat Taylor
    • Jonathan Graham

      Uh…that crazy persons website is referencing a place for purchasing biomaterials. The reference to the Rockefeller Foundation is the name of the organization the depositor was working for. They don’t OWN the virus but I expect to everyone who orders a culture from that website they get some money.

      • Boris Ogon

        The link is even more idiotic than that – it’s impossible to patent products of nature in the U.S.: Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 133 S. Ct. 2107 (2013).

      • Pat Taylor

        The Cankee has displayed his simple side!

        Zika is a flavivirus, which is pronounced a bit a like flavor.
        Flay-v-virus. Most viruses in this family are carried by arthropods —
        mosquitoes and ticks. We’ve known about Zika virus since at least 1947,
        when researchers from the Rockefeller Foundation put a rhesus monkey in a
        cage in the middle of Zika Forest of Uganda. The team was conducting
        surveillance for yellow fever. But “Rhesus 766”
        would ultimately become the first known carrier of Zika virus. (It
        remains unconfirmed if monkeys or other animals are consistent carriers —
        or reservoirs — for the disease).

        Jonathan Graham BIOS says: Armchair statistician

        You missed these statistics miserably, be sure to keep your day-time toilet cleaning technician job at the greasy spoon you are living under presently.

        http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/02/04/1947-rockefeller-patent-shows-origins-of-zika-virus-and-what-about-those-genetically-modified-mosquitoes/

        • Jonathan Graham

          We’ve known about Zika virus since at least 1947, when researchers from the Rockefeller Foundation put a rhesus monkey in a cage in the middle of Zika Forest of Uganda.

          So nobody owns the virus. They just collected it.

          Jonathan Graham BIOS says: Armchair statistician

          I assume you’re not referring to my Basic Input/Output System.

          You missed these statistics

          Those aren’t statistics. :-) they are simply assertions and they don’t support the idea that Zika is owned by anyone.

          • Pat Taylor

            You can hide behind your keyboard pretending to know all and play the idiot you are exhibiting, but you will notice the 6th paragraph assigns ownership to the Rockefeller’s.

            http://www.globalresearch.ca/who-owns-the-zika-virus/5505323

          • Jonathan Graham

            , but you will notice the 6th paragraph assigns ownership to the Rockefeller’s.

            Do you mean:

            And who owns the patent on the virus? The Rockefeller Foundation!

            This is just an assertion, the only reference it gives is a screenshot of the website where it apparently mistakes ownership of the original sample with ownership of the virus.

          • Pat Taylor

            View the History tab…
            http://www.atcc.org/Products/All/VR-84.aspx#history

            Jonathan opines
            This is just an assertion

            screenshot of the website where it apparently mistakes ownership of the original sample

            At this point, unless you are able to verify and prove otherwise, I will assume that your offerings are ‘assertions’ and ‘mistakes’.

          • Boris Ogon

            Leaving aside the facts that what you’re referring to isn’t even the same strain that’s circulating in the Americas and that it’s impossible to patent products of nature in the U.S., how is it that this “Rockefeller ownership” isn’t interfering in the slightest with different labs sharing their isolates?

          • Pat Taylor

            OK, I see however that you fail to even mention the particular variant presently in circulation through the AmeriKahs.

            You will notice the second and last available variant is also owned by Rockefeller.
            http://www.atcc.org/Products/All/VR-1838.aspx#history

            ‘Ownership’ has nothing to do with ‘patent’… I am only bringing light to the ownership of the virus.
            Show me where I have mentioned ‘patent’.

            As far as Rockefeller ownership goes and my bringing light to the fact is simple… Rockefeller’s have always been and will remain in the population control business.

            http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Engdahl_F_William/Rockefeller_Plan_SOD.html

            I expect you to deny this…
            What is your motivation to defend the name Rockefeller, you have been working to deflect attention from any mention of the Rockefeller name?

          • Boris Ogon

            OK, I see however that you fail to even mention the particular variant presently in circulation through the AmeriKahs.

            You seem to have missed the first sentence.

          • Pat Taylor

            Leaving aside the facts that what you’re referring to isn’t even the
            same strain that’s circulating in the Americas and that it’s impossible
            to patent products of nature in the U.S., how is it that this
            “Rockefeller ownership” isn’t interfering in the slightest with
            different labs sharing their isolates?

            OK, here is your first sentence(it would be hard to miss the answer to my question), where does it answer my last question Boris?
            WHAT IS THE VARIANT IN THE AMRIKAHS?

          • Jonathan Graham

            View the History tab…

            It details the history of the sample. “Name of Depositor” – the person who deposited the sample. “Source” – source of the sample. “Year of Origin” – the year the sample originated. If any of this was a reference to a patent then it makes no sense. Unless you also claim that the “source” refers to the “source of the patent” which is a monkey. If that makes sense to you then perhaps the problem here is better solved with therapy.

            Not to mention that sample information is far more important to researchers – the people who use that site – than your imagined patent information would be.

            Jonathan opines “This is just an assertion”

            Actually there is no information which strongly argues that the zika virus is even patented. So what I stated isn’t simply an opinion it’s a fact. Now perhaps somewhere in the Lizard People’s Secret Vaults – there is information that strongly argues this point. However that doesn’t change the fact that your webpage is ONLY making an assertion. When you get that other information feel free to post it.

            At this point, unless you are able to verify and prove otherwise

            So because someone on a website says “And who owns the patent on the virus? The Rockefeller Foundation!” you believe that this is so. Well that’s nice that you’re gullible. If it had said “And who owns the patent on the virus? Jonathan Graham!” would you have believed that too? Even if the screenshot didn’t change? No? Then clearly your entire argument rests on the idea that when that site says “Name of Depositor” it must mean “owner of patent”.

          • Pat Taylor

            Lot’s a words there Jonathan…

            You have a prolific imagination, you keep mentioning ‘lizards’ Jonathan – why is this?

            So anyhow, why the affinity to post as virulently as you do in what are predominately related to vaccinations Jonathan?

            You appear to have very few interests with respect to news articles that you post comments to, kinda like someone that earns a living from making such posts for numerous clients.

          • Jonathan Graham

            you keep mentioning ‘lizards’ Jonathan – why is this?

            “Lizard People” is a staple of conspiracy theorists. Your reading of an ordinary bioproducts website into something revealing that a virus is owned by the Rockefeller Foundation is the same way the conspiracy theorists find secret messages in whiskey adverts.

            So anyhow, why the affinity to post as virulently as you do in what are predominately related to vaccinations Jonathan?

            Because that’s where a lot of the catastrophically stupid ideas are and I have a hobby refuting people who bring those things up. I’ve posted on other hubs of stupidity like free-energy sites.

            kinda like someone that earns a living from making such posts for numerous clients.

            Oh I meet your entirely made up criteria for someone who is paid to post on nowhereville websites? No surprise there.

          • Pat Taylor

            Oddly your posts are only related to vaccines..

            The masses of text as you submit must pay quite well by big pharma

          • Jonathan Graham

            Oddly your posts are only related to vaccines..

            I said that I go to correct people with stupid ideas. Or are you saying it’s odd that the stupid is so disproportionately distributed among the vaccine critical?

            It’s interesting that you didn’t read my post history far enough back to see that my early posts were making fun of people on a political forum where I chastised folk who didn’t understand what was wrong with the removal of our mandatory census.

            Well don’t take it too hard nobody else who thinks like you do does much in the way of fact checking either.

          • Pat Taylor

            I said that I go to correct people with stupid ideas.

            Please display your statistical results in percentages of success in re-education.

            Or are you saying it’s odd that the stupid is so disproportionately distributed among the vaccine critical?

            And here you go again with belittling and invalidation of ones intelligence when anyone dissents from your view.

            Really though John, you need to get over yourself, I am taking nothing ‘hard’ from you or anyone such as yourself which is hiding behind a keyboard in Kanada attempting to influence issues in AmeriKah for profit whilst posing as an average individual.

          • Jonathan Graham

            success in re-education.

            Re-education isn’t necessarily the goal of correction.

            And here you go again with belittling and invalidation of ones intelligence hen anyone dissents from your view.

            Well a) You kind of make my point when you can’t differentiate between “a disproportionate number of people with unintelligent ideas are vaccine critical” and “everyone who disagrees with me is unintelligent”. b) There are probably a lot of reasons for this kind of statistical clustering. A lot of you are exceptionally lopsided in your evidence model. A few large scale studies don’t shift the likelihood of a hypothesis but one sentence on a blog with nothing in the way of objective information supporting it and all of a sudden you are 1000000% convinced that the Zika MUST be the property of the Rockerfeller Foundation.

            I am taking nothing ‘hard’ from you or anyone such as yourself which is hiding behind a keyboard in Kanada attempting to influence issues in AmeriKah for profit whilst posing as an average individual.

            Well that’s a good example of a classical ad hominem fallacy. Not to mention you still are deluding yourself that anyone would pay me for posting here.

          • Pat Taylor

            You have proven my point as well Jonathan…

            Dissent is unacceptable in your minds eye and therefore anyone who dissents must be of lesser intelligence.

            Go ahead and take a spin to http://www.personalliberty.com
            There is a very diverse mix of news article there today, avoid the one article which deals with the topic which you get paid for remarking on presently (Merck, HuffPo, ‘Vaxxed’: The censorship connection)

            Maybe you can take a look at this article (Got a minute? Use it to understand the folly of minimum wage laws) http://personalliberty.com/got-a-minute-use-it-to-understand-the-folly-of-minimum-wage-laws/
            and then see how many people in the Disqus thread need correction in your view.

            Then if you like, take a look at this article (Putting the privacy genie back in the bottle… sort of) http://personalliberty.com/putting-the-privacy-genie-back-in-the-bottle-sort-of/
            and once again, please display for all to see how will correct others according to your policy.

          • Jonathan Graham

            You have proven my point as well Jonathan..

            Not really. It’s pretty clear that you can’t differentiate between “a disproportionate amount of people with stupid ideas are vaccine critical” and “everyone who disagrees with me is stupid” – if you could then you would have been without basis for your opinion that “dissent is unacceptable”. Sorry, that’s the way logic works. Consider reading a book on that sometime. :-)

            Go ahead and take a spin

            No thanks.

            please display for all to see how will correct others according to your policy.

            Yawn what was actually said was that I post about vaccination…:

            Because that’s where a lot of the catastrophically stupid ideas are and I have a hobby refuting people who bring those things up. I’ve posted on other hubs of stupidity like free-energy sites.

            Were you in the habit of reading you would notice the word “hobby”. Perhaps your idea of a hobby is getting ordered about by people. Mine isn’t.

          • Pat Taylor

            I actually expected that you would take a cruise over but, I guess you aren’t motivated to make a few bucks posting there.

            You must feel really smart huh?
            Do you talk to people in real life as you do when you hide behind your keyboard?
            You would have fun at our local bar – or rather – we would have a load of fun; you… not so much.

          • Jonathan Graham

            I actually expected that you would take a cruise over

            Don’t worry I’m sure you can find some way to turn a failed prediction into something that still confirms your beliefs.

            but, I guess you aren’t motivated to make a few bucks posting there.

            See, told you. :-)

            You must feel really smart huh?

            No, like most people I’m somewhat more accomplished than most in some areas over others and there are areas where some people are more accomplished than myself. In fact I always enjoy hearing someone who really deeply understands a field speak.

            we would have a load of fun; you… not so much.

            Well that’s going to be difficult because I try to have fun wherever I have to be.

          • Ron Roy
          • Jonathan Graham

            Again, unless you can provide a clear hypothesis to frame whatever is in that link. It’s reasonable to assume that you don’t know what you are talking about. I mean you have failed just about every opportunity to demonstrate an elementary understanding of math and science. Why would this time be any different.

            Which again, seems to illuminate why you would never want people with even a tiny amount more education than yourself to judge you ideas and why you chickened out of the debate (many times over).

  • thaddeus

    Am Joy Amar from England i have two kids i have be living my life without fear now my husband and i was paining on getting another baby before i knew that i have be infected with this virus called (ZIKA) i was so afraid, i don’t want to die so i told my friend on what i was passing through she say to me that she know a man that can cure (ZIKA VIRUS) them i contact the mean on his email at (dradamsaisha@gmail.com) for help he say to me that my problem is vary easily for him to solve i was so happy and he ask me to go and get some items that he will use to make a cure for me and after he had fished making the cure he send it me in England through the help of (DHL)then i took it with the way he ask to now and am free of(ZIKA) you might think that is a lie you can email this doctor on his email at (dradamsaisha@gmail.com)email him for your cure. he also can any disease of any kind

  • Go Colombo

    Sales pitch for Biotech companies. Great job with your pitch. I especially like how you completely dismiss any indication that biotech may have made a mistake in releasing GMO mosquitos with no real science except what the biotech companies have provided you in their pamphlets and material.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Science Sushi

Real Science. Served Raw.

About Christie Wilcox

Dr. Christie Wilcox is a science writer and postdoctoral scholar at the University of Hawaii. She freelances for major media outlets including The New York Times and Popular Science. Her debut book, Venomous, releases August 2016 (Scientific American/FSG Books). To learn more about her life and work, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

@NerdyChristie on Twitter

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+