A growing contingent of people are saying “No” to the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida. A Change.org petition with nearly 170,000 signatures against the release of the GM mosquito states the following:
Right now, a British company named Oxitec is planning to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the fragile environment of the Florida Keys. The company wants to use the Florida Keys as a testing ground for these mutant bugs. Even though the local community in the Florida Keys has spoken — we even passed an ordinance demanding more testing — Oxitec is trying to use a loophole by applying to the FDA for an “animal bug” patent.
This could mean these mutant mosquitoes could be released at any point against the wishes of locals and the scientific community. We need to make sure the FDA does not approve Oxitec’s patent. Nearly all experiments with genetically-modified crops have eventually resulted in unintended consequences: superweeds more resistant to herbicides, mutated and resistant insects also collateral damage to ecosystems.
Oxitec says its genetically modified male insects are programmed to produce offspring that die before adulthood, preventing the maturation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus.
The creator of petition above, Florida Keys resident Mila de Mier, was quoted recently in a Washington Times article on the GM mosquito debate.
Yet a vocal crop of Florida activists say the company is trying to test a new product without full consent from the community. They worry that the release of genetically modified organisms will result in unintended consequences for the human population and environment while deterring tourists, who are vital to the local economy.
“I’m angry now. They’re doing it against the will of the people,” said Mila de Mier, a Key West resident who started a petition against the trial.
The Miami News Times reported on GMO mosquitoes in Florida earlier this week, quoting attendees at a public meeting in the Florida Keys. de Mier was quoted again in the Miami News Times piece.
An elderly woman with a refined British accent who didn’t want to reveal her name worries that decimating the population of one mosquito species could damage the local food chain and ecosystem. “Everything has a purpose,” she says.
Mila de Mier, a real-estate agent who organized this get-together and started a petition against the experiment, rattles off a litany of concerns in her thick Spanish accent. “They’re going to spend our money for us to become guinea pigs,” she says. “We want this place to remain natural, to be the way it is. We don’t need their mosquitoes… Mr. Doyle wants to be a pioneer. He wants to be the first in the U.S. to do this type of experiment.”
Coverage continued in the Key West Citizen, which reported that “Key Haven residents resoundingly say ‘no’ Tuesday night to the idea of test-releasing genetically modified mosquitoes there.” An image of the beginning of that front page article is provided below.