November 8, 2016 – Citizens in Key Haven, Florida, and greater Monroe County will have an opportunity to vote on a proposal to test whether releases of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes will suppress invasive species that transmit viral diseases such as dengue and Zika.  The referendum is non-binding, but may influence whether the local mosquito control board supports going forward with the study (1) .

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the project which would involve the release of mosquitoes modified to interfere specifically with the reproduction of Aedes aegypti, the prime vector for several serious diseases.  In principle these GM mosquitoes created by the biotech company Oxitec will decrease the risk of disease without permanently altering the genetic structure of the ecosystem.  Although releases of Oxitec mosquitoes in other locations have yielded encouraging results, it remains an open question whether the strategy will decrease human disease or is an economically viable approach to vector control.

The stakes are high and the pressure is enormous; Zika virus has invaded Florida and pesticides are no panacea against the mosquito vector.  However, the Oxitec mosquito is a field trial of a promising concept, not a sure thing.

Will citizens vote to be part of the experiment?

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(1) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/florida-voters-weigh-gm-mosquito-releases-what-are-issues

UPDATE

November 9, 2016 – Results are in https://t.co/0Qfmp51vzw

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