In its efforts to take control of dengue fever in Asia, Malaysia has released 6,000 genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in a forest.
The landmark trial, however, has sparked widespread concern among environmentalists who fear it might create uncontrollable new species and affect the ecosystem, reports the Daily Mail.
The field test is meant to pave the way for the official use of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes to mate with females and produce offspring with shorter lives, thus curtailing the population.
Only female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread dengue fever.
However, the plan has sparked criticism by some Malaysian environmentalists, who fear it might have unforeseen consequences, such as the inadvertent creation of uncontrollable mutated mosquitoes.
They also said such plans could leave a vacuum in the ecosystem that is then filled by another insect species, potentially introducing new diseases.
Malaysian authorities have dismissed the fears and said they were conducting small-scale research and would not rush into any widespread release of mosquitoes.he government-run Institute for Medical Research released about 6,000 non-biting sterile male lab mosquitoes into a forest on December 21.
Another 6,000 wild male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were also placed in the area for scientific comparison, it said in a statement.
The institute said the experiment was 'successfully' concluded on January 5, and that all the mosquitoes were killed with insecticide.
It was not planning to release any more mosquitoes until it had analysed the results of the lab mosquitoes' life span and extent of their dispersal in the wild.