Biotech firm may release GM mosquitoes in US
Sun-Sentinel (Florida, USA), December 5 2011
Mosquito season is waning, but a futuristic new swarm could be coming to a canal near you. The federal government is quietly considering letting British company Oxitec release genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys as soon as this week.
The mosquitoes are engineered with a lethal gene to make offspring die before reaching adulthood, breaking the pest's reproductive cycle.
The company claims this would theoretically reduce the mosquito population and the prevalence of dengue fever.
It seems like a nifty, high-tech solution to a potentially deadly and definitely irritating fact of life for Floridians, but no one has checked to see if the engineered mosquitoes are safe or if it will even work.
This is the first animal specifically genetically engineered to wipe out a wild population in the name of disease control. With little warning or opportunity to oppose the release, South Floridians are set to be the next guinea pigs.
Releasing GE mosquitoes into the environment without fully knowing the potential environmental and health impacts is irresponsible.
Even if these futuristic bugs successfully wipe out the entire population of the target A. aegypti mosquito, another disease carrier like the aggressive Asian tiger mosquito could easily take their place.
Asian tiger mosquitoes have only been controlled so far by spraying large amounts of insecticide, and reducing their competition would only make them more prevalent.
. The proposed open-air release of millions of unregulated, experimental insects into the Florida Keys opens a Pandora's box that cannot easily be sealed.
Wenonah Hauter is executive director of Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy organization.