In May of 2015 the FDA Science Team reviewing the Oxitec EA predicted that political pressure would very likely affect the outcome of any decisions. “We have witnessed this exact scenario twice this year, as political anxiety influenced the scientific process and now adds risk to all, by permitting the introduction of a less than properly vetted Genetically Modified organism into the wild without any practical possibility of recall.” said Barry Wray, the Executive Director for the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition (FKEC). FKEC has been lock step with the Lower Keys communities in seeking a proper vetting of the Genetically Modified Mosquito (GMM) experiment as proposed by Oxitec.
“Any experiment proposed for the Florida Keys community has not sought proper consent and the community has consistently objected to being subjected to this experiment. We do not anticipate and object to, any experiment proceeding, without the consent of those subjected to it. The fact that all experimentation plans are void of any Health Department oversight, have no established goals for disease reduction and now rely on the financial ability of a company suffering $65M/quarter losses to meet any legal liabilities, serves as an indicator of the level of negligence the approval of the this proposed experiment provides, in terms of protecting the public.” added Wray.
When asked to provide preliminary funding, to help the communities at risk of vector borne transmissions of Zika, Dengue and other Flaviviruses, Congressional leaders provided none. The emergence of locally transmitted Zika in South Florida effectively would suggest that each of the elected members is a collective culprit in spawning their own anxiety and this region’s vulnerability.
Through proper community engagement and education, and thorough boots on the ground inspection, the Florida Keys mosquito control programs are a proven and effective means to address these mosquito threats to our communities. Suggesting that the threats are grave, is an unfounded marketing position of Oxitec, given that any threats could have been easily mitigated, as has been the case in the Keys.
A good example of what boots on the ground programs can do is shown in the greater than 99% reduction of dengue in Soracaba, Brazil, a town of 600,000 people near where the Oxitec GMM experiments in Piracicaba, Brazil were performed. The Dengue reduction in Soracaba outperformed those of the GM Mosquito experiments in the neighboring community. The state of Sao Paulo, with 44M people, reduced dengue by over 83% in one year just by adding one day a week to inspector programs.
Wray continued that “the Florida Keys community is interested in investigating improved control techniques that do not raise concerns of other health and environmental implications to the public. Oxitec’s technology has not achieved the level of pure scientific evaluation that would provide confidence to our community.”
Other control alternatives are currently in the permit process to be evaluated for use in the Keys. One such program would use Wolbachia, a bacteria that infects the mosquitoes to either make male mosquitoes “sterile”, or to make the female mosquitoes incapable of virus transmission. Mr. Wray explained, “These programs do not represent any elevated risk to the public and are truly exponentially more affective than the proposed Oxitec programs and the EPA has already approved some limited testing with the Wolbachia technique in CA, NY, KY and FL, so in many regards it is further along than the GMM program here in the US. Responsible mosquito control programs will likely find these programs more cost effective and more compatible with the risk concerns of their communities, than those of the Oxtiec genetically modified mosquito plans.”
FKEC has been engaged for over 4 years in protecting the communities of the Keys from inadequately vetted Genetically Modified Mosquito experimentation in the Keys that would put the health of the community and ecosystems at risk.
FKEC is a non-profit, science driven, coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations, established in 2010 in response to the Gulf oil spill. FKEC received unanimous endorsement from every elected official in Monroe County including each incorporated community within, to fulfill a mission to protect the ecosystems of the Keys.
FKEC is open to all and has enjoyed the global active support from much larger organizations and actively works on programs like canal water quality restoration and looks now to turn its focus toward helping to unify the many groups working to improve upstream water quality and restore essential water flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
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