The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District voted to approve the use of genetically modified mosquitoes in a trial that will examine whether releasing the mosquitoes in Monroe County will reduce the area’s Aedes aegypti population.
I must confess, this makes me think of all of the “great” ideas that have gone bad over the years….invasive plants introduced in order to curb some other plant ( remember Kudzu??) or Eucalyptus trees in the west planted for railroad ties and now are major fire risks in many locations. Not good….so what about a genetically modified mosquito…what could possibly go wrong?!?!?
The genetically engineered mosquitoes, referred to as self-limiting Friendly mosquitoes (Oxitec), are male mosquitoes modified to produce offspring that do not survive past the late larval or early pupal stage. A small survey conducted in 2015 showed that most respondents in Monroe County did not support the insect control method; however, residents voted on Nov. 8 to approve its use in the area.
The British company Oxitec will still need to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval, as the original location for the trial – Key Haven – voted against the trial. The experiment could be the first time a genetically modified animal is released into the wild in the United States.
In March, the FDA reviewed an environmental assessment of the self-limiting OX513A mosquito and released a preliminary finding of no significant impact on human health, animal health or the environment. The efficacy of the vector control method was demonstrated in five open field trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands. According to the release, there was at least a 90% reduction in the A. aegypti population at the study sites. The method continues to be used in Piracicaba, Brazil and the Cayman Islands, where most residents support its use.