This is friggin’ unbelievable.
In August 2016, the Obama Administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its approval to OX513A, a genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquito developed by a British biotech company, Oxitec. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the primary species that carries the Zika virus. OX513A is genetically engineered to pass along a lethal gene to wild females. The gene creates a protein that interferes with cell activity, killing females’ offspring before they reach adulthood.
The FDA approval was the green light for Oxitec to use the GMO mosquito in a field trial that fall in the small Florida community of 475 homes in Key Haven, about a mile east of the island of Key West. The trial was to test how well OX513A controls the local population of Aedes aegypti. Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said, “Our studies show we can reduce the Aedes aegypti population by 90% over six months and keep it there by releasing small numbers of males after that. And that is very cost-effective compared to pesticides.” (CNN)
A successful field trial is required before OX513A can be sold commercially in the United States.
Even though Oxitec had already conducted field tests in Key Haven and, before that, in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands, it now plans to release the GMO mosquitoes into the fragile environment of the Florida Keys and Texas, despite opposition from the local community in the Florida Keys who had passed an ordinance demanding more testing. More than 50 million of the genetically-modified mosquitoes will be released per week, 7 days a week, totaling billions of the mutant insects being released into a wide swath between Florida and Harris County, Texas.
More than 30 physicians have created a petition asking the FDA to conduct more evaluation of the risks of this genetically modified OX513A mosquitoes because they are created with E-Coli bacteria, herpes-simplex virus and other ingredients — a premature technology about which we know little, including the effects on public health and on the environment.
The petition points out that nearly all experiments with genetically-modified crops have eventually resulted in unintended consequences, such as superweeds that are more resistant to herbicides, and mutated and resistant insects. A recent news story reported that the monarch butterfly population is down by half in areas where Roundup Ready GM crops are doused with ultra-high levels of herbicides that wipe out the monarch’s favorite food, the milkweed plant.
The petition asks:
- What’s the rush for this radical approach? Dengue fever has been absent from the Florida Keys for years, which indicates the current methods of control and public education are working. Will the more virulent Asian tiger mosquito that also carries dengue fill the void left by reductions in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population? Will the dengue virus mutate (think antibiotic resistant MRSA) and become even more dangerous?
- Where is the third-party, peer-reviewed research on effectiveness and safety of GMO mosquitoes other than Oxitec’s own claims of success? There are other alternatives that are more natural, no-risk, faster and cheaper.
To sign the petition, go here.
H/t Big Lug
See also “Zika virus epidemic: What you should know”.