British researchers at biotech firm Oxitec could be releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys if the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves their experiment which aims to combat viral diseases spread by the insects.
Insects with modified DNA have never been this close to being released on a residential neighborhood in the United States, the Associated Press said in a report published on MSN.
Researchers seek to combat two extremely painful diseases with their GMO mosquitoes, dengue and chikungunya. Both are growing threats within the United States, however, the report indicated that some people are more afraid of the idea that they’ll be bitten by a genetically modified organism than they are of contracting the painful diseases the GMO insects have been designed to combat. Over 130,000 people have signed a petition against the experiment on Change.org.
Michael Doyle, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District’s executive director, was quoted in the report as having said that this is fundamentally “using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease.”
Phil Lounibos, a researcher studying mosquito control at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory commented on the effectiveness of the modified mosquitoes.
I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public
Currently, there are no cures or vaccines for either diseases.
Dengue, also known as break-bone fever, is so painful it causes contortions, however, U.S. cases of the disease remain rare.
In the Florida Keys where insecticides are sprayed year-round throughout the crowded neighborhoods, the female Aedes aegypti mosquito which spreads the diseases through its bite has evolved to resist four of the six insecticides used to exterminate them.
Oxitec patented a method of breeding Aedes aegypti with fragments of genes from the herpes simplex virus, the E. coli bacteria, coral and cabbage to create a modified variant whose synthetic DNA kills mosquito larvae. The synthetic DNA is commonly used in laboratory science is thought to pose no significant health risks to other animals, according to the AP report.
As the males don’t bite for blood like the females, Oxitec has manually removed modified females and aims only to release males which are intended to mate with the wild females, whose offspring will die, subsequently reducing the population. The company has already constructed a breeding lab in the city of Marathon and hopes to set their GMO mosquitoes free in a neighborhood in Key West this spring.
Fox 8 reports mosquito controllers have indicated that they’re running out of options in light of the majority of the approved insecticides proving no longer effective in eradicating Aedes aegypti.
This isn’t the first time Oxitec has tested their modified mosquitoes, as the company released 3.3 million of them in a 2012 experiment which targeted the Cayman Islands, an experiment which critics claim the company failed to obtain informed consent for as residents were not informed that they could be bitten by a few stray females that the company’s lab workers had overlooked. The biotech firm has stated that only non-biting males would be released and that even if humans are somehow bitten, no genetically modified DNA would enter their bloodstream.
Lounibos agreed with the company when he said that consequences as a result of their release is “highly unlikely.”
I’m on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there’s no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that’s kind of a gray matter
Chris Creese, Oxitec’s spokeswoman, indicated that the Cayman test was executed over the course of six months and resulted in a 96 percent rate of success when it came to eradicating the targeted bugs. She indicated that the company had conducted another test in Brazil, after the one in the Cayman Islands, and that both countries were now interested in executing larger-scale projects. She also indicated that the company has now released a total of 70 million modified mosquitoes across several countries and has yet to receive any reports of human impacts as a result of bites or from the synthetic DNA. The spokeswoman was quoted having said that “there’s no mechanism for any adverse effect on human health.”
We are confident of the safety of our mosquito, as there’s no mechanism for any adverse effect on human health. The proteins are non-toxic and non-allergenic
Do you think releasing Oxitec’s GMO mosquitoes in the Florida Keys is a good idea?