Stop Mutant Mosquitoes!
Stop Mutant Mosquitoes! Tell the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Not to Release GMO Mosquitoes!
Since 2009, Florida’s Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have reported several cases of Dengue fever – a virus that has not been seen in the United States since 1945. Although the re-emergence of Dengue is worrisome, what is even more alarming is how Florida is considering combating the problem. UK-based Oxitec Insect Technologies wants to sell the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District mosquitoes that are genetically engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, killing them before they reach adulthood. Todd Shelly, an entomologist with the USDA in Hawaii, one of the scientist tasked with the review of an Oxitec report on the mosquitoes before it was published last month in Nature Biotechnology, says he supports moving forward with research but called the current approach a "black box" of uncertainties. The primary concern, as with GE food, is the possibility that engineered genes could transfer to or harm other organisms. "If anyone tells you they know what is going to happen, they’re wrong," he said. And, of course, once these Frankenbugs are released into the wild, they’re impossible to recall.
Can a municipality unilaterally decide to start experimenting with genetically engineered insects? Who regulates mutant mosquitoes? The United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees most bio-control releases, says that GMO mosquitos are outside of its jurisdiction because they pose no direct threat to animal health.
Only female mosquitoes bite, so Oxitec’s plan is to prevent the mosquitoes from transferring their altered genes to other species by releasing only males. Shelly questioned the practicality of sorting males for release, a laborious process done by hand and involves screening pupae for size but has a margin of error that results in 0.5 percent of the released insects being female. If millions of mosquitoes were released, even that small percentage of females could lead to a temporary increase in the spread of the disease. In a follow-up paper, Shelly and a co-author also noted that a “disturbingly high" 3.5 percent of the offspring of wild and transgenic mosquitoes survived in lab tests, raising fears that the mutant mosquitoes release plan would not actually reduce mosquito populations. Furthermore, the Oxitec mosquito control plan only addresses one mosquito species that spreads Dengue fever. Even if Oxitec could completely eliminate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (which is likely given that the research shows the genetically engineered males were only abut half as successful in mating as wild ones ), the aggressive Asian tiger mosquito would only become more prevalent. The only defense against these Asian tiger mosquitoes is spraying large amounts of insecticide!
Stop these mutant mosquitos before they get to your neighborhood! Send a message to the chairman of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District today!