Despite some opposition, the Florida Keys move forward with genetically modified mosquitoes

Monroe County, Florida – The battle over the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys has been going on for almost a decade. According to Barry Ray, the contractor for the mosquito control team wants to deliver the first batch of insects to Monroe County in April.

Ray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Union, said he believed there was not enough evidence to prove that the technology was safe and required independent scientific research.

“I really don’t know what the long-term consequences will be, or how to quantify those risks. If you can’t do it scientifically, how to responsibly mitigate it or something I don’t know how to detect if it doesn’t work, “Ray said.

Contractor UK-based biotechnology company Oxitec has promised that modified non-biting male mosquitoes can put an end to the problem of Aedes aegypti, also known as Aedes aegypti. Mosquitoes spread dengue, Zika and Chikungunya fever.


Public health efforts are very controversial. The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has hired Chad Huff as Chief of Public Education and Information. The team includes ground inspectors handling ground mosquito larvae and aviation staff spraying pesticides.

“Oxitec, the company we work with, is doing this abroad, with 60, 70, 80 and even 95% suppression in some areas,” Huff said. We talked about technologies that are being sold as environmentally sustainable.

When Oxitec mosquitoes mate with wild females, they produce non-breeding females and males with a “self-limiting gene” that is inherited by half of their offspring. Mosquitoes also carry a “fluorescent marker gene” to facilitate tracking.

“There are few (fewer) female mosquitoes that actually chew, and fewer (fewer) female mosquitoes that actually breed,” Huff said. “There are limited attempts at the Florida Keys.” It was.


Over time, Huff said this would hurt the population. There is less need to buy pesticides to kill larvae that hatch from flying mosquitoes and eggs. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the technology has been “successfully used” in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama and India.

Proponents of the experiment endorse approval from the state’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA also allows a release in Texas to evaluate how effective the technology is.

There is a lot of skepticism. Almost 240,000 people have signed a petition for it at Change.org. Mara Daily, a mother who runs a hairdressing shop, thought it was a good idea at first, but she changed her mind when she learned it. There are concerns that GMO mosquitoes can cause unknown pathogens.


“I’m worried about putting my kids in an environment where up to 300 million mosquitoes are released in our environment,” Daly said.

Last month, Congressman Carlos Guimenez wrote to the EPA requesting independent confirmation that genetically modified female mosquitoes would not be released and more information on their impacts on the ecosystem.

The list of mosquito predators includes bats, birds, fish, frogs, turtles, dragonflies, damselflies and spiders.

The village council of Islamorada will address this issue during a meeting at 5:30 pm on Monday. The general public can provide public comments to anita.muxo@islamorada.fl.us by email with the subject “Public Comments” by 12:00 pm on Monday. You must include the sender’s name and address.


The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District meets on the third Tuesday of every month. Next is 1:00 pm on March 16th. For more information, please email questions @ keysmosquito.org.

Torres contributed this report from Miami.

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Despite some opposition, the Florida Keys move forward with genetically modified mosquitoes

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