Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In The US: First Ever Trial To Fight Zika Approved

First Posted: Nov 21, 2016 03:50 AM EST

In a 3-2 vote on Nov. 19, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has approved the trial of genetically modified mosquitoes to curb the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, Chikungunya and dengue.

Last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to test the use of a genetically modified mosquito to fight Zika transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes for the first time in the United States has been blocked and opposed by not only some commissioners of the group, Stephen Smith and William Shaw but also the residents in the community.

In two Nov. 8 ballot measures, the residents in Key West had split feelings toward GMOs being used to stem the spread of infectious diseases. About 58 percent of the residents in Monroe County approved the trial, while in Key Haven, where the trial was set to take place, 65 percent opposed the trial.

"This is a tool mosquito control needs. When you're sworn into office, your main goal is to kill mosquitoes and to protect the residents and the county," Jill Cranney-Gage, a commissioner who represents Key West, said as reported by NPR.

However, the chairman of the district's board of commissioners, Phil Goodman, reached a decision that if the board approved the trial, it would choose a new site for the experiment since Key Haven residents opposed it. The residents said that they do not want to be used as "guinea pigs" in the experiment and they fear the environmental consequences associated with the trial.

The move is to release genetically engineered (GE) male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes of the line OX513A in Key Haven, Monroe County, Florida. A biotechnology company, Oxitec Ltd., developed the modified strain to reduce the populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by up to 90 percent in trials conducted in Brazil and the Cayman Islands, The Verge reports.

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