Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents have signed a petition opposing the release of mutant mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to kill off insects and curb disease.
The effort headed by the British Company, Oxitec, aims to combat the spread of Dengue Fever in the area.
Residents in Key West are petitioning against the move, saying they do not want to be guinea pigs in a test to defer a disease that can be otherwise controlled.
The Florida Keys is a beautiful place, and it's my home, resident Mila de Miler, who is heading the petition, told Orlando's WKMG-TV Local 6. We won't be lab rats just so this company can make money. Oxitec says we have to do this to control mosquitoes, but it's just not true. Other methods of mosquito control are working. We don't need to gamble with mutant mosquitoes.
The petition, which has been published on www.change.org, claims that the Oxitec is using a loophole to pass additional ordinance testing by applying directly to the FDA for an animal bug patent. This could mean these mutant mosquitoes could be released at any point against the wishes of locals and the scientific community. We need to make sure the FDA does not approve Oxitec's patent, the petition reads.
Mier also points out some of the consequences of genetically-modified crops: Superweeds more resistant to herbicides, mutated and resistant insects also collateral damage to ecosystems. 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 milkweed plant.
According to residents, the Dengue fever that the company claims the mosquitoes will combat, has been absent from the Keys region since 2010, due to increased control methods. In the petition residents say that mutated mosquito could even bring a new strain of the disease.
Meanwhile, 6,000 genetically modified mutant mosquitoes were released in Malaysia last year, in an aim of curbing dengue fever.
In a first experiment of its kind in Asia, the test was aimed at paving the way to the official use of genetically engineered male mosquitoes to mate with females that would produce offspring with a shorter life span, the Daily Mail reported.
Similarly, the experiment raised alarm bells among Malaysian environmentalists, who feared that the genetically modified mosquitoes could potentially create a new breed of insects that would potentially be more of a threat.
Residents in Key West are displaying the same concerns. I am certain that, though Oxitec claims that these mosquitoes will be harmless and/or beneficial, sooner or later it will be discovered that something is horribly wrong with theses mosquitoes. Genetic engineering is in its infancy. Common sense dictates that the release of an experimental organism - one that breeds uncontrollably and will undoubtedly transmit antigens to humans and other hosts - into the natural environment is both moronic and irreversible, writes Seth Casson who signed the petition.