Originally published February 19 2015
Biotech company prepares to release GM mosquitoes in Florida neighborhood
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) There's a type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, known not only to spread certain diseases but to be resistant to most of the insecticides designed to keep their bites at bay. To remedy the situation, British biotech firm Oxitec has patented a method of mutating Aedes aegypti with coral, cabbage, and elements of the E. coli bacteria and herpes simplex virus genes.(1)
Translation: They've created a genetically-modified mosquito.
Even worse than their creation is the fact that, if the company has their way, the mosquitoes will be released in the Spring of 2015. Not in a lab environment or a controlled indoor area, but in public where people walk, work, play and shop. If the FDA approves, the GM mosquitoes will be released in areas thought to more susceptible to disease than most other areas; in particular, Oxitec has their eyes on the Florida Keys.
The two reasons biotech company cites for GM mosquito release necessityUsing climate change and globalization as the catalysts behind their creation, those at Oxitec maintain that the Florida Keys are more prone to diseases. They say that, due to changes in storm winds, a growing population and cargo ship use, diseases such as dengue ("break-bone fever") and chikungunya (a painful condition that causes suffers to writhe in pain and contort) are likely to spread faster to southern United States cities such as Key West. Both diseases can be spread by Aedes aegypti.(1)
Interestingly, both diseases are rare in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Although dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, it is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands." Still, the biotech firm holds tight to climate change and surging population growth issues to justify unleashing an army of the company's miniature winged beasts.(2)
Furthermore, they say that the release of their GM mosquitoes is important to help resolve resistance issues that the area has experienced. Although insecticides are sprayed year-round in the Keys, female Aedes aegypti (who bite and carry disease) have evolved so they are resistant to four out of the six kinds of insecticides used.(1)
Hence, the Oxitec GM mosquito brainstorm.
Release a "thorny issue" that has many signing a petitionPhil Lounibos, who studies mosquito control at Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, is hesitant about the idea. "The science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes," he said, "but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public." Referring to those who worry about the release of these mosquitoes, he added, "I'm on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there's no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that's kind of a gray matter."(1)
Understandably, many people are very concerned. As such, they're encouraged to visit Change.org, a site dedicated to raising awareness about issues that concern humans, animals and the environment. It's there where people can petition against the release of these GM mosquitoes. The petition is headlined, "Say No to Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Release in the Florida Keys," and outlines details about a possible FDA loophole which Oxitec hopes will allow for the mosquitoes' entry.(3)
Additionally, the petition raises the question of how this may possibly impact the bat population.
Overall, the petition calls for additional research. "Where is the third-party, peer-reviewed research on effectiveness and safety of GM mosquitoes other than Oxitec's own claims of success?" the petition asks. "Don't let Oxitec bully our community! We say no to genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys!"(3)
However, Oxitec spokeswoman Chris Creese feels that people have no reason to worry. "We are confident of the safety of our mosquito, as there's no mechanism for any adverse effect on human health. The proteins are non-toxic and non-allergenic," she said.(1)
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