Print Edition - 2016-07-24  |  Free the Words

Employer mosquito

  • The mosquito is the largest employer in the world
- MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI, Kathmandu

Jul 24, 2016-

When you spend a weekend watching Hollywood horror movies based on mosquitoes—‘Mosquito Man’, ‘Skeeter’, ‘How a Mosquito Operates’ and ‘Mosquito’, then you realise how important the mosquito is to the economy. Imagine the number of people employed by these movies—actors, directors, script-writers, animators, stuntmen, makeup artists, spot boys, distributors, popcorn sellers and ushers.

The mosquito is the largest employer in the world. It makes millionaires out of ordinary people. Even I have benefited by getting space in a newspaper for this article. And so do at least ten thousand people who blog about the mosquito regularly. So do junior newspaper reporters who, running out of ideas, write about the “new breakthrough” in the battle against malaria and the columnists who give advice on how to keep the bites away (wear yellow, don’t wear yellow). The newsprint makers sell so much more paper to accommodate the news and printers print out miles of statistics on the mosquito every year.

Creating jobs

Then come the insect repellent creams like Odomos and at least a hundred different ‘ayurvedic’ anti- mosquito pastes, creams and sprays, with natural alternatives made with Vitamin B. If each company employs 100 people plus the distributors, how many would that be?

We all grew up in machhardanis. The cloth makers should give the creature a big thank you for the long sleeves that everyone in a mosquito area wears—more cloth, more money. Perfumers have found that perfume repels more mosquitoes than DEET, so that is the new selling gimmick.

Now the heavy hitters: the chemical companies have destroyed so much of the world while trying to kill the mosquito. Larvicides like Methoprene and Pyriproxyfen are applied to water to control mosquito larvae. Adulticides like Malathion, Permethrin, Resmethrin, Sumithrin, Scourge and Anvil are used in sprays to control adult mosquitoes. Synergists like Piperonyl Butoxide and MGK-264 are not toxic to the mosquitoes themselves, but make adulticides more effective. 

Thousands of doctors are given jobs and hospitals flourish—all because of the mosquito. Pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish, crustaceans, and bees. Once the bees all disappear, I am sure thousands of people will have to be employed to manually pollinate the fruit trees so that we can continue to eat. Please include the foggers and sprayers who are employed by the mosquito. 

Fogging is dangerous, so the market has created respirator masks with replaceable cartridges. Lots of people have been given jobs to protect you from things that are invented to kill mosquitoes. Imagine the legions of advertising agencies and sales representatives.

Let us not forget the people employed directly by mosquitoes: all the thousands of people who work in Public Health Institutions and sanitation companies around the world.

All about money

Government municipal agencies should also thank the mosquito, because they can pretend to buy chemicals to fog the towns and divert the money. Many daughters have been married off and many sons of middle level bureaucrats have gone abroad to study on mosquito money.

The pharma companies earn no less than a billion dollars every year from the mosquito bitten and they employ millions of people.Have we left out the aquaculture industry? The fish bred for human eating are fed millions of mosquito larvae which are 

specially grown for the industry. I had to buy Gambusia fish for my pond so that larvae are eaten; imagine how many fish are bred for this purpose and released into still waters.

Have I included all the thousands of people and scientists who have written reports on how these chemicals are extremely toxic? After all, they get grants to do study after study proving the same thing that none of these pesticides have any effect on 

mosquitoes and at the same time are harmful to human health. None of what they say has any effect on the pesticide industry or government regulations. Yet they all—bless the mosquito—get lifelong research jobs. 

Millions of scientists research the mosquito all day, every day. Researchers have found a chemical that disables the part of the insect’s brain that smells humans. Others who find a way to switch off the mosquitoes’ heat detection ability. Vaccine makers experiment on thousands of children in Africa without any luck. Scientists are working to introduce scorpion venom into mosquito genes. Recently a British company, called Oxitec, opened a genetically modified mosquito farm in Brazil to produce millions of GM insects which will (hopefully) battle the other mosquitoes.

Yet forgotten 

In all this, we forget the main economic importance of mosquitoes. They are eaten by other insects which, in turn, are eaten by birds and animals who are either eaten by us or used by us for our own well-being. For instance, mosquitoes in the Arctic regions 

decide how the caribou move to avoid the mosquito swarms. The local hunters follow these paths and get their food. They serve as pollinators as well. Mosquitoes influence the development of agricultural areas by preventing 

or limiting the use of infested territory. Dredgers, swamp fillers, tree cutters all owe their living to mosquitoes.

Their final employment is, of course, the people who bury and cremate humans. More people have died in wars from malaria than from bullets and bombs. Even now mosquitoes cause anywhere from 1 million to 2.7 million deaths each year. Imagine the employment of thousands of gravediggers and priests, crematoria staff, professional mourners, hearses, white sheet sellers and florists.

Could the mosquito be god? If it disappears, so do the jobs of at least 150 million people. The economy of entire countries will be ruined, Wall Street stocks will come crashing down and pharma companies will go bankrupt. The population will double within a year and food will run out. People will come onto the streets and riots will ensue.

To join the animal welfare 

movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Published: 24-07-2016 11:36

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