Researchers consider appropriate regulatory frameworks for GM insects

June 21, 2012

Oxitec scientists have published a new review article which considers the opportunities and challenges faced in the regulation of the use of genetically modified insects. The article has been published by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), in the framework of its collaboration with the Italian Ministry for the Environment.

Insect pests represent an increasingly serious threat to global health and the economy. Dengue fever, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, infects between 50-100 million people each year, causing at least 25,000 deaths. Insect-related damage to crops costs the global economy billions each year and can threaten the livelihoods of farmers.

Genetically modified insects offer the potential for new and improved approaches to insect pest control but, as for any new technology, developing appropriate regulation to govern their use is a key challenge. Scientific advances have created opportunities for both novel technologies and novel fields of application in healthcare and disease control, and it is important that regulatory authorities around the world are able to adapt to this new environment.

Today’s article discusses the current approval status of genetically modified insects, and draws on Oxitec’s experience of working with genetically modified insects to consider whether this technology raises unique questions for regulators to consider.

Commenting on the article, Oxitec Chief Scientific Officer Luke Alphey said:

“Genetically modified insects have huge potential to benefit human health and the economy. As a company striving to achieve public benefit from our science, we are committed to working in an open and transparent manner with regulatory authorities around the world, to ensure appropriate frameworks are in place. That is why it is important for us to be able to share our considerable experience in working with genetically modified insects over the past 10 years. We hope this article may serve as a useful overview to other scientists working in the field, and provide additional background for regulatory decision-making in the future.”



Notes to editors:

About Oxitec

Oxitec is developing and commercialising an effective and environment-friendly proprietary technology for the control of significant insect pests. Oxitec’s technology has the potential to make a major contribution for both global health and agriculture by combating insects responsible for serious diseases such as dengue fever as well as agricultural damage. The proprietary technology builds on inventions from the University of Oxford and employs genetics and molecular biology to enhance the existing radiation based Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), and to extend the control method to a broader range of insect pests.



ICGEB is an international, intergovernmental organisation conceived as a centre of excellence for research and training in genetic engineering and biotechnology with special regard to the needs of the developing world. The Centre conducts innovative research in life sciences for the benefit of developing countries in its three Components of Trieste, New Delhi and Cape Town. It strengthens the research capability of its members through training and funding programmes and advisory services and represents a comprehensive approach to promoting biotechnology internationally. ICGEB is dedicated to advanced research and training in molecular biology and biotechnology and holds out the prospect of advancing knowledge and applying the latest techniques in the fields of biomedicine, crop improvement, environmental protection/remediation, biopharmaceuticals and biopesticides production.

In 1997 the ICGEB established a dedicated Biosafety Unit that is now involved in several activities, including information dissemination, scientific training in risk assessment for the environmntal release of GMOs (capacity building and technology transfer), and co-operation with other international agencies involved in biosafety




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