Department of Lands and Natural Resources

08/06/22 – MOSQUITO CONTROL TO SAVE HAWAIIAN HONEYCREEPERS DOES NOT INVOLVE GMOs

Published on June 8, 2022 in Press releases, slider

DAVID Y.IGE
GOVERNOR

SUZANNE D CASE
PRESIDENT

For immediate release: June 8, 2022

MOSQUITO CONTROL TO SAVE HAWAIIAN HONEYCREEPERS DOES NOT INVOLVE GMOs

Ministry of Agriculture advisory committee to review import permit on Thursday

To see the video, click on the photo or watch on this link: https://vimeo.com/205268213

(HONOLULU) – Despite misinformation circulating on social media, the importation of “male-incompatible” mosquitoes to control wild mosquito populations and save four native bird species from extinction, does not involve the use of No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Genetically Modified Organisms (GE).

On Thursday, the Department of Agriculture’s Plants and Animals Advisory Committee will consider listing three species of mosquitoes on its List of Restricted Species A. The listing would allow the import of three species of mosquitoes, which are already present in Hawai’ i. One of them, the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) is responsible for the steep population declines of many treecreeper species on Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawai’i. The other two species – the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) – transmit human diseases.

A collection of agencies and organizations working under the Birds, not mosquitoes partnership, plan to introduce an anti-mosquito contraceptive into bird habitats to try to prevent avian malaria from killing the last remaining populations of these birds… some of which have fewer than 100 individuals in the wild and are expected to disappear in less than two years.

The birth control method uses male mosquitoes (which do not bite) with a strain of bacteria called Wolbachia which is incompatible with the strain of Wolbachia currently found in wild mosquitoes in Hawaiʻi. When these male mosquitoes mate with females in the forest, the mosquito eggs do not hatch and the size of the mosquito population decreases. No gene is modified in the mosquito or in the Wolbachia bacteria.

This mosquito birth control approach is used safely in 15 different countries, including the Americas. Birds, not mosquitoes The partnership is guided by the state’s top scientists and researchers, who collectively have decades of experience studying Hawaii’s forest birds and mosquitoes. According Birds, not mosquitoes“We need these Wolbachia-incompatible male mosquitoes must be listed before importation can begin.

Landscape-scale control of disease-carrying mosquitoes is considered the most pressing conservation issue in Hawai’i. A recent report from the US Department of the Interior estimated that the ‘akikiki of Kaua’i are expected to disappear in 2023, and the ‘ākohekohe, kiwikiu and ‘akeke’e shortly thereafter. Information from the Birds, not mosquitoes The group notes, “Hawaiian creeper extinction is driven by exposure to avian diseases transmitted by non-native mosquitoes. Climate change is allowing disease-carrying non-native mosquitoes to invade high-altitude forests, which were previously the last disease-free habitat where vines were safe.

Facts:

  • The Culex/Wolbachia process is not genetic modification or genetic engineering
  • The Culex the species involved is already in Hawai’i
  • The Wolbachia bacterial implantation is already happening in Hawai’i
  • The only change is the voltage of Wolbachia being implanted currently occurs in another genus of mosquitoes (Aedes).
  • The different Wolbachia strains in Culex will cause both male and female mosquitoes to produce infertile eggs.

DLNR chair Suzanne Case said: “It is disappointing that some people are misinforming others saying it uses GMOs or GE. They are not genetically modified or modified organisms. The proposed technique does not modify mosquito genes or Wolbachia. It’s a process similar to taking antibiotics and then consuming probiotics to replace the existing community of bacteria with a different community in your stomach.

All three mosquitoes are known to carry human diseases in Hawai’i. Listing the species will allow the Ministry of Health to use this tool to reduce populations of mosquitoes of health concern in a safe and targeted manner, without the use of chemical insecticides.

The Birds, not mosquitoes partnership is asking people to send in testimonials of support for the listing of the three mosquito species by 4 p.m. today. Submit your testimony to Mr. Jonathan Ho, Head of Inspection and Compliance Section, [email protected] or fax to (808) 832-0582.

Please include “Hawaiian Plants and Animals Advisory Committee on the Proposal to Add Three Mosquito Species to the Restricted Animals List” in the subject line.

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(All images/video courtesy of DLNR)

HD Video – University of Hawaii Mosquito Lab (February 22, 2017):

Photographs – University of Hawaii Mosquito Lab (February 22, 2017):

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jk9agu3c06vcfrw/AADbGZAs4haT2DgzsyoS_4gca?dl=0

Media Contact:

Dan Denison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources

[email protected]

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