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The Flying Public Health Tool: genetically modified mosquitoes and malaria control

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2013
JournalScience as Culture
Journal number1
Volume22
Number of pages23
Pages38-60
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

For many in the scientific world, technologies of genetic modification offer a promising method to control vector-born infectious diseases such as malaria. Nevertheless, the recent releases of the first genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes into the wild have triggered heated discussions. How is the human-mosquito relationship being reconfigured through the development of GM mosquitoes? The scientific modifications that make mosquitoes incapable of transmitting malaria and capable of generating profit have epistemic consequences for public health. GM mosquitoes have shifted malaria control in ways that might best be understood in terms of ‘transposition’ (Braidotti): the mosquito transforms from a disease-bringing agent to a benevolent public health tool. This transformation from vector to tool is technically elegant, but this elegance is also risky. As the history of malaria epidemics has shown mosquitoes travel long distances in hardly predictable patterns. Creating a GM mosquito then also means to surrender public health practices to the lines of flight of the mosquito itself.