What could go wrong?
Florida residents and environmentalists are already voicing their concerns after state officials and Oxitec, a biotechnology a UK-based biotechnology company, announced plans to release the critters over a two year period in Monroe County, in the Florida Keys section of the state.
In a press release from Friends of the Earth, they state that the project attempts to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti, one of the many species of mosquitoes that carry infectious diseases such as Yellow Fever and Zika.
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Naturally, there are public concerns and scientific concerns about this release.
Some people are worried that the genetically engineered mosquitoes could possibly end up producing hybrid wild mosquitoes that may increase the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, other are concerned that they could become resistant to insecticides used on original wild mosquitoes.
“This is a dark moment in history. The EPA must halt this live experiment immediately. The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic,” said Dana Perls, the food and technology Program Manager at Friends of the Earth.
On Friday, Oxitec and The Florida Keys mosquito control district mentioned that they would release up to 12,000 mosquitoes each week in six locations: One on Ramrod Key, three on Vaca Key, and two on Cudjoe Key. This will continue for approximately 12 weeks as part of the first phase of the experiment.
Oxitec said their genetically modified non-biting male mosquitoes will meet with the biting female population, which would produce female offspring that died in the larval stage before they have the opportunity to spread disease.
Despite Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen pointing out the full approval from the US EPA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, some residents were up in arms since the proposal first hit the news.
“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent," said Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, in a statement to Friends of The Earth.
Here’s what some others had to say about the mosquitoes:
Barry Wray, the Executive Director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, also believes that there should be a call to action from the masses to protect the community. “Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” he said.