With contributions by Sarah Ryan
Mosquito Control in Key West is considering releasing Genetically Modified (GM) mosquitos into the populace to combat dengue fever.
Oxitec, a British company, has been trying to release GM mosquitos in order to control the mosquito population and combat dengue fever. Jeffery Smith, a consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices, came to South Florida to discuss the issue facing Floridians. He pointed out that the release of the GM mosquitos could have economic, health, and environmental consequences.
According to Mosquito Control in Key West’s web page keysmosquito.org/modified-mosquito-release, “Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is an environment-friendly, species-specific method of insect control” and “has been used very successfully in agriculture for over 50 years.”
The only problems are, the mosquitos are genetically modified and Key West has not seen a dengue fever outbreak since 2010. Jeffery Smith counters, “If there are no cases (of dengue fever) how are you going to measure the success?”
“My children are not a 90 day experiment,” said Jenna, a mother of three, and a Florida resident. She, along with 50 other South Florida residents attended an event featuring Jeffery Smith, a consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices, came to South Florida to discuss the issue facing Floridians.
“Once you release the mosquitos, three or four percent minimum, will release viable offspring, not sterile…how are you going recall that if it turns out there’s a problem?” asked Jeffery Smith. “This is a permanent release; this is not just a test.”
“There is a possibility of catastrophic health problems for humans,” continued Smith. “There is a possibility that the larva is toxic, that the bites of the mosquitos become toxic. It is unlikely according to the three scientists I spoke with, but if it’s unlikely, if that’s the best you can do for a technology that is going to be released, forever, that unlikely is too much.”
There is another area which could be affected, tourism. “(If) someone gets bit, they have some kind of reaction unrelated to the mosquito, but they believe it’s the mosquito…, it gets picked up by anyone (media) and now you think about the impact on tourism, far worse in terms than dengue fever,” said Smith.
State Senator Joseph Abruzzo, who attended the Teaching Tallahassee event on Boca campus, responded “As Vice Chair of both Commerce and Tourism and the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committees, I am committed to the well-being of Florida’s attractions and the environment in which they thrive in. The State Legislature would have to acknowledge the importance of the GMO mosquitoes and understand the adverse effects they could potentially have on other industries as their release is considered in the future.”
Though the GM mosquitos have not yet been released, a petition of over signatures has been collected to prevent it from happening.