Following a stir, Indonesia suspends the release of genetically modified “good” mosquitoes to fight dengue 

Indonesia suspends the release of genetically modified "good" mosquitoes to fight dengue

To protect them from their fear, the Indonesian authorities have decided to delay the release of 200 million genetically modified mosquitoes that can be used to fight wild dengue. The Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes do not support the growth of dengue in their bodies. Initially, they would be released into dengue endemic zones within Yogyakarta city.

The decision is delayed due to critics’ concern that the pilot study did not provide sufficient rationale for introducing a new mosquito species. The health ministry spokesperson, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said that our discussions with the Bali Provincial government about pausing the liberation of bugs containing wolf bites should be temporary and after that provide more information on the community should be ready.

This is an organically existing bacteria called Wolbachia that occurs at the rate of about sixty percent in some types of mosquitoes. However, the WMP, a large NGO leading the research, tried to promote mating of dengue mosquitoes with ‘good’ mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia injected artificially into their systems at laboratories.

As the program’s initial implementation, the government scheduled its commencement in Yogyakarta, followed by Bali, Semarang, Bandung, Jakarta, and Kupanga within Java and in the island of East Nusa Tennagara. Critics point out that although similar programs have been conducted in 12 countries with about 8.6 million individuals, the fact that only around 4,500 people were considered for the experiment in Yogyakarta does not mean that it has been completely proven successful.

The program’s legality is another issue it faces apart from other health concerns. Citing one Bali-based lawyer, Yulius Benyamin Seran emphasized that the state must ensure that no harm will come its way. The mosquito should undergo proper laboratory tests with expert involvement, for one.

The postponement of the release is made with the purpose of carefulness toward objections expressed by local communities and opponents of the Indonesian administration. Discussions on transparency in the process and dissemination of information before releasing genetically modified mosquitoes have also started up.

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