A video circulating online shows a small sap-sucking insect called an aphid, not a genetically modified mosquito with a number stamped on it released by philanthropist Bill Gates, as online posts claim.
The text in one post (here) reads, “Why is there a number stamped on the mosquito? Bill Gates was very vocal about releasing millions of GMO [genetically modified organism] mosquitos into the public.”
Another example can be seen (here).
However, the video shows a small insect called an aphid, not a GMO mosquito.
Dr. Floyd Shockley, collections manager at the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told Reuters in an email that the insect in the video was a European birch aphid (Euceraphis punctipennis).
“This species is well known to often bear 2 dark colored pigmented areas on the dorsal surface of the abdomen that resembles numbers in the adult winged form,” said Shockley. “Usually looks more like ‘18’ but in some cases of additional pigmentation it can look like a ‘38’, as depicted in the Instagram video.”
Photos of the European birch aphid can be seen (here). A close up photograph (bugguide.net/node/view/1004721) shows the same darker markings and the same number of legs and wings.
One video being shared (here) also shows an article titled “Gates Foundation Awards $35 Million for Mosquito Research” published on Sept. 8, 2016 (here).
The article says that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has increased its funding by $35 million for a total of $75 million for the Target Malaria project (targetmalaria.org/), which aims to use gene editing to add instructions to the DNA of mosquitos that can transmit malaria to make them sterile. This is true and has been reported by MIT Technology Review (here) and the Wall Street Journal (here).
Reuters has previously reported (here) on Gates’ investments in genetically modified (GMO) mosquitos related to the foundation’s goals of ending poverty, disease and inequality around the world (www.gatesfoundation.org/).
Daniel Markowski, technical advisor at the American Mosquito Control Association, said that while the Gates Foundation does fund mosquito control research, it is “not barcoding mosquitoes and releasing millions of them into the environment”.
A representative for the Gates Foundation said the claim that the video showed a genetically modified mosquito with a number or barcode stamped on it released by the Gates Foundation was false.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website (here) that genetically modified mosquitos are regulated in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some have been used in Florida and Texas.
Matthew DeGennaro, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University, told Reuters in an email that the “Modified mosquitoes that are being used or proposed to be used are Aedes aegypti or Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes”, not the aphids seen in these videos.
False. The video shows an aphid, not a mosquito with a number stamped on it and released by Bill Gates.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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