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GMO Mosquitoes Could Fight Zika


Last updated 8/7/2016 at 9:23am

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have given the go ahead to a British companies genetically modified (GMO) mosquito.

Following months listening to public comments to the release of a draft environmental impact study, the FDA have announced that it is officially giving OX513A, a GMO male mosquito developed by British company, Oxitec, a federal green light to be used in field trials.

OX513A is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries a modified gene which gets passed to wild females making the females' offspring die. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the main carriers of Zika, the gene creates a protein that interferes with cell activity, killing the mosquito before it can reach adulthood. A significant boost in the fight against the growing population.

Oxitec says it expects the same results it has had in field trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands when it conducts a field trial in Key Haven, Florida.

"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," Parry said. "And that is very cost-effective compared to pesticides."

Despite a total of 15 people already catching the virus from mosquitoes there since June 15, local residents are calling on a local referendum. During the November referendum, Key Haven residents will be allowed to vote twice: once to determine whether they want to allow the mosquito to be released into their neighborhood and again as part of a countywide vote. The countywide vote will determine whether another neighborhood in the Keys might be willing to participate.

"We forced our board to go into an election," said Mila de Mier, a vocal opponent of the GMO mosquito who lives near Key Haven. "Because so far, consent has not been asked or given by the local population."

Opponents are confident that voters will say no.

"People don't want to be guinea pigs," Mier said. "There has been no acceptance from people who live in the Key Haven community. In fact, 85% are against it. And that's why we need this election."

However, a national Purdue University study found that 78% of respondents would support the introduction of genetically modified mosquitoes into the United States to curb the spread of Zika.

"We have the FDA stamp of approval," he said, "and we have had a lot of inquires from various state and local officials who are trying to get up to speed on our technology and how it might help them in their efforts."


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