Conspiracy Theories

The anti-GMO crowd is spreading this dumb Zika virus conspiracy theory

As the Zika virus spreads across the Americas, this strange rumor started on Reddit: The Zika virus was caused by genetically modified mosquitos.

Image via James Gathany (Flickr)

As the Zika virus spreads across the Americas, this strange rumor started on Reddit: The Zika virus was caused by genetically modified mosquitos. Although the conspiracy theory gained traction on reddit and other websites, many scientists have stepped in to debunk the theory.

Last week, a post appeared on Reddit’s conspiracy forum that linked the Zika virus with GM-mosquitos that were engineered to decrease the mosquito population. The OX513A strain of male mosquitos spawn larva that usually die before reaching maturity.

The post theorized that the 3-4% of GM mosquitos that reproduced despite the odds became carriers of the Zika virus, which results in brain damage and birth defects in babies. It did not take a lot of evidence for many redditors to declare that the GM-mosquitos, engineered by a company called Oxitech, were responsible for the virus’s spread.

However, according to many scientists, there is very little truth in the Zika conspiracy. Speaking to Business Insider, Alex Perkins, a Notre Dame biological sciences professor, said that the rumors were completely unfounded, and the GM-mosquitos would help fight the spread of Zika.

“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,” said Perkins. “If anything, we should potentially be looking into using these more.”

Ozitech, the company that engineered the GM-mosquitos, stood by their attempts to control the population, saying that the theory was “simply untrue.”

Also read: Study: People who believe in mass-scale conspiracy theories simply suck at math

“All vector control solutions — insecticides, traps, and ‘sterile’ mosquitoes get deployed in areas with a high incidence of disease to help stop the spread of the disease at its source,” said Hadyn Parry, Ozitech CEO. “The fewer the mosquitoes, the lower the risk of disease. Our approach has proven to be more effective than the alternatives with a lower environmental impact.”

Zika is not a new virus that spread because of the GM-mosquitos; It was first discovered in 1947. Zika is currently affecting countries in South and Central America, and although experts predict the disease might surface in North America, it’s impact would be relatively minor.

Health officials are fighting to contain the disease and stop it from spreading. However, most agree that the disease is not linked to GM-mosquitos in anyway.

“There’s no evidence that genetically modified mosquitos have a role, but we wouldn’t need the [insects] to have an outbreak,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, the Chief of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases division at the University of Utah.

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  1. Kathy Gray

    February 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    If it were not for insecticides the Natural predators of mosquitoes would handle their overpopulation, when companies like Monsanto with their sprays and weed killers have killed off most of the birds, insects, and fish that normally feed on the larva of mosquitoes. Our activity has offset the natural balance of predators and prey all so that the supermarkets can sell fruit and vegetables that are perfect.

  2. Fed brogan

    February 14, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Actually the doctors in Argentina are linking it to a Monsanto chemical that has been out in the drinking water of the affected areas since 2014. The toxin is meant to cause developmental defects in Mosquitos to control the population. The doctors state that there have been plenty of Zika outbreaks in the past yet no case of microcephaly until the Monsanto chemical was put into the water. Sounds plausible. Unless you’re getting paid by Monsanto or a subsidiary

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