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Florida to deploy thousands of GMO mosquitoes to combat Zika; scientists say environmental impacts unknown


(NaturalNews) The state of Florida is about to make a decision that it can't take back: Releasing scores of genetically modified mosquitoes in a bid to wipe out other mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

Following approval by the Food and Drug Administration, a field trial that would see the release of the GM mosquitoes is set to take place in the Florida Keys. While Gov. Rick Scott has been vocal in his demand that federal agencies step up their efforts to help eradicate the virus-carrying insects, the way in which the government is set to approach the problem could be disastrous.

Late last week, the FDA released a final environmental assessment of the trial (see how fast the bureaucracy moves when an administration wants it to?), issuing a finding that GM mosquitoes "will not have significant impacts on the environment." The project, which is being led by Oxitec, a biotechnology firm focusing on insect control, calls for releasing thousands of GM male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. These are bred in a lab to kill off as much of a local mosquito population as possible, through the passing on of a gene that is fatal to any offspring of wild females.

But despite the FDA's approval of this experimental procedure, the agency doesn't have the final word on the matter. Oxitec must still win approval from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which will vote on the issue after surveying local residents later this fall.

All of this for a virus that has been here for decades and is patented?

Past surveys have shown support for the experiment from a majority of respondents, but there have also been some very vocal opponents. Those critics believe that there could be major environmental implications after the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes eliminate much of the local mosquito population.

The truth is, however, that the Zika virus has been around for a while. And there is little evidence that the virus is the cause of a spike in cases of microcephaly, as Natural News founder/editor Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, reported just days ago. As further noted by Collective Evolution, the virus has been around for about seven decades now. Not only that, but the virus is marketed by two companies, and the Rockefeller Foundation owns the patent on the virus. LGC Standards (headquartered in the UK) and ATCC (headquartered in the US) are the two marketing firms.

As for the field test of GM mosquitoes in Florida, they have already been trialed. Anti Media reported that, in fact, the Zika outbreak is in the same area in Brazil where GM mosquitoes were released in 2012 – well before the current viral spread. In July 2012, reports The Disease Daily, the GM mosquitoes – from Oxitec – were deployed to combat mosquito-borne Dengue fever. Those particular Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were engineered to pass on a gene that caused the vast majority of offspring to die before they matured. The operation was generally successful.

However, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher published concerns in a 2010 study that a known survival rate for the GM mosquitoes of 3–4 percent meant that there should be further study before they were released. Other scientists shared her concerns then and since, but they have been ignored.

Creating 'sub-populations' of tougher to kill mosquitoes?

They shouldn't have been. Later reports noted that Brazil is third in the world in its use of tetracycline – an antibiotic, in its food animals. Research has shown that food animals excrete about 75 percent of what they are given, meaning tetracycline is omnipresent in Brazilian soil.

Enter Oxitec's GM mosquitoes. In its own report, the biotech company said that even a small presence of tetracycline could dramatically increase the survival rate of the offspring mosquitoes – to as much as 15 percent. That means that the GM mosquito plan could be a lot less effective than hoped.

But even without the tetracycline, Steinbrecher explained, a "sub-population" of genetically modified Aedes mosquitoes could theoretically develop and thrive – and cause even greater problems.

Is Florida about to open itself up to a strain of genetically modified mosquitoes that will both spread disease and not respond to biotechnology?





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