Bill and Melinda Gates have been called the world’s greatest philanthropists and the world’s “most generous people.” It’s true that, even with his net worth of $87 billion, Bill Gates’ $28 billion in donations is impressive, as are many of his world health goals — at least on the surface.
If you dig a little deeper into the Gates Foundation’s philanthropy, however, you’ll find questionable alliances and partnerships, such as the one with biotech giant Monsanto, as well as some curious projects, like spending $1 billion on training programs for journalists and research on effective crafting of media messages.
I have previously stated Bill Gates might be one of the world’s most destructive do-gooders. He seems completely oblivious to the fundamental flaws in the science behind genetically engineered (GE) foods, for example.
This oblivion apparently extends to the genetic engineering of other living creatures beyond plants, like the use of GE mosquitoes, which is being increasingly accepted due to the latest public health “emergency,” the Zika virus.
Gates Foundation Funded GE-Mosquito Development
The Gates Foundation has spent at least $20 million to fund the development of GE mosquitoes designed by a biotech company called Oxitec to stop the spread of chikungunya and dengue, tropical diseases spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
The Oxitec mosquitoes are unlike any that exist in nature. They’ve been genetically altered to carry a “genetic kill switch,” such that when they mate with wild female mosquitoes, their offspring inherits the lethal gene and cannot survive.
To achieve this feat, Oxitec has inserted protein fragments from the herpes virus, E. coli bacteria, coral and cabbage into the insects, dubbed OX513A. The GE mosquitoes have proven lethal to native mosquito populations.
In the Cayman Islands, for instance, 96 percent of native mosquitoes were suppressed after more than 3 million GE mosquitoes were released in the area, with similar results reported in Brazil.
The release of GE mosquitoes in the wild has been criticized by many. The potential exists for these genes, which hop from one place to another, to infect human blood by finding entry through skin lesions or inhaled dust.
Such transmission could potentially wreak havoc with the human genome by creating “insertion mutations” and other unpredictable types of DNA damage, for starters.
WHO Supports Research on the Use of GE Mosquitoes to Fight Zika
Zika virus, which has made headlines for supposedly increasing rates of microcephaly in Brazil in recent months, is also spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called mosquito control “the most immediate line of defense” against its spread and is encouraging further testing of GE mosquitoes for this purpose. According to a WHO statement:9,
“Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis, WHO encourages affected countries and their partners to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defense.
… For genetically modified mosquitoes, the WHO Advisory Group has recommended further field trials and risk assessment to evaluate the impact of this new tool on disease transmission.”
There has been chatter on the Web that the Gates Foundation has been involved in promoting the spread of Zika virus via the development of GE mosquitoes — but the GE mosquitoes cannot promote Zika’s spread (at least not intentionally, as some people have suggested).
There remain serious potential problems with their use, however.
Why GE Mosquitoes’ ‘Kill Switch’ May Fail
These GE mosquitoes were designed to die in the absence of tetracycline, which is introduced in the lab in order to keep them alive long enough to breed. They were designed this way assuming they would NOT have access to that drug in the wild.
Brazil, however, is the third largest consumer of antibiotics for food and animal production and, according to a 2009 analysis, an estimated 75 percent of the tetracyclines administered to farm animals end up being excreted in waste.
The use of manure and sewage sludge as fertilizers is a major route of spread of antibiotics in the environment.
According to Oxitec documents, in the presence of tetracyclines the survival rate of the GE mosquitoes’ offspring may be as high as 15 percent, which means they may not decimate the mosquito population as efficiently as intended.
15 Companies Racing to Develop Zika Vaccine
WHO has reported that at least 15 companies and academic groups are in the process of developing a lucrative Zika vaccine.
One of them, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, announced in February 2016 that mice exposed to their Zika vaccine developed antibodies and generated a response from T-cells, which suggest the vaccine may be working.
They have plans to test the vaccine in non-human primates and then begin Phase I testing in humans before the end of 2016.
Bharat Biotech of India, which somehow got a head start and began working on two Zika vaccines in November 2014, also has plans to start pre-clinical animal trials of its experimental Zika vaccine.13,
Sanofi and the U.S. National Institutes of Health are also working on Zika vaccines of their own. WHO estimates it will be at least 18 months before any of the vaccines enter into large-scale clinical trials.
Ring Vaccination Suggested for Zika Virus
At the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting, held in February 2016, researchers from WHO and the University of Florida shared how their experimental Ebola vaccine trial may be relevant to the so-called Zika outbreak.
During the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the researchers used a technique known as “ring vaccination,” which was first used in the 1970s during smallpox outbreaks. It involves vaccinating populations in “rings” around those who are already diagnosed.
So in the case of Ebola, close neighbors and family members of victims were vaccinated first, followed by wider “rings” of the community 21 days later. The study found the technique to be “100 percent” effective in preventing Ebola when used via the ring vaccination strategy.
At the AAAS meeting, the researchers discussed that the strategy would also be useful for testing the experimental Zika vaccine, if and when one becomes available.
Study researcher Ira Longini, Ph.D. a statistician at the University of Florida, told Popular Science, “This approach should work for Zika vaccine if we have one, and I think we will need one.” But comparing Zika virus to Ebola is not comparing apples to apples.
For starters, Zika virus is harder to transmit than Ebola, and it’s far from deadly; in most people, it causes no symptoms and when it does cause symptoms, it’s typically mild fever and rash.
The major concern is for pregnant women, among whom the virus has been linked to microcephaly in babies. But vaccinating pregnant women at all is controversial, as is whether or not the Zika virus is to blame for microcephaly at all.
Gates Foundation Linked to Zika Vaccine Makers
If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with Bill Gates, his foundation has close ties with Zika vaccine makers. Bharat Biotech, for instance, received $50 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to research and conduct human trials on a malaria vaccine.
Merck, Syngenta and Bayer are also partners in the Gates Foundation, as are chemical giants Monsanto and DuPont. This unholy alliance is just one of the reasons why I don’t trust Bill Gates’ philanthropy; he might be one of the most dangerous individual powers on the planet.
Interestingly, in the summer of 2015, Dr. Kathryn Edwards, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, received a $307,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study the immune responses of pregnant women receiving the pertussis-containing Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine.
In October 2014, the Brazilian government mandated that all pregnant women must receive the Tdap vaccine, effective as of 2015. The fact that birth defects began rising in Brazil toward the end of 2015 seems more suspicious in light of this mandate than the possibility that Zika infection is solely responsible.
This is especially true when you consider that pertussis vaccine has previously been linked to brain inflammation and brain damage in infants, and the safety of administering Tdap to pregnant women has never been proven.
Global Health Emergency Declared
WHO declared the Zika virus a global health emergency on February 1, 2016 noting that the “main worry” is the virus’ potential link to microcephaly and subsequent brain damage. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging pregnant women to avoid traveling to countries with reported transmissions of the Zika infection — about two dozen countries so far.
Meanwhile, even with the increasing releases of GE mosquitoes, increased fogging and spraying for mosquitoes have been recommended even though they’re largely ineffective against Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito in question.
These tiny black and white striped mosquitoes do not fly far — their range being a mere 300 to 600 feet. Since it’s so difficult to catch them airborne, insecticidal sprays and foggers are mostly useless for controlling them. Also, they feed during the daytime, not at night, which is typically when the fog-trucks will roll through the neighborhood.
Groups like the Manhattan Institute are even calling for the return of DDTto address the mosquito problem, despite the fact that DDT passes freely through the placenta during pregnancy where it gains direct access to the developing fetus and its brain. Moreover, DDT has also been linked to microcephaly!
Of course, the race to develop a Zika vaccine is also on, and it’s worth remembering that any pandemic vaccine fast tracked to market in the U.S. during a “public health emergency” is completely shielded from liability for injuries and deaths.
Is Panic Over Zika Virus Warranted?
In Brazil, microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads, is said to have surged from an average of about 150 cases annually to more than 4,300 cases since October 2015. Of these, fewer than 500 cases have been confirmed, and the Zika virus has only been identified in 41.Meanwhile, in the U.S. approximately 25,000 infants are diagnosed with microcephaly each year — without Zika.
As I wrote last month, the evidence suggests implicating Zika virus may be a matter of convenience — leaders of the public-private partnership between industry and government may be quickly blaming the rise in microcephaly on disease-carrying mosquitoes in order to sell more GE mosquitoes, to sell more toxic insecticides, and to have an excuse to develop and sell more vaccines.
All the while, they are keeping hidden some of the most likely culprits of microcephaly, namely poor nutrition and toxic environmental exposures like pesticides, as well as vaccines given during pregnancy when the fetus is most susceptible to harm. By throwing up a convenient veil in the form of Zika-infected mosquitoes, business can not only go on as usual but also grow and expand profits to boot.