The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is currently awaiting response from the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to release an experimental community of genetically modified mosquitoes.
Millions of the modified insects would be released in Florida to fight against viral diseases carried by mosquitoes.
“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” Michael Doyle, the executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, said of the experiment.
In the US, mosquitoes that carry Dengue and Chikunganya are a growing threat to the public health. But as it turns out, many people are equally concerned about the ramifications of genetically modifying an insect and releasing it into the wild. Some 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition that targets this experiment. Even supporters of the initiative are asking for more evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks.
“I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public,” said Phil Lounibos, who studies mosquito control at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
Mosquito controllers feel that they are running out of options to fight these public health concerns. Climate change and globalization are aiding the spread of tropical diseases from the equator further north. There are no vaccines or cures for dengue or chikungunya, both very painful diseases.
What’s your take on this? Do you think it’s fair to try to use genetically modified mosquitoes to fight these diseases, or should we look at other, safer alternatives?
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