MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if the Food and Drug Administration approves it
Meantime, a petition on change.org has more than 130 thousand signatures against it but scientists say, they just need a better understanding of what would happen.
Now mosquito control is looking at genetically modifying one of the 45 species of mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The species that could spread dengue and Chikungunya .
“If it’s not a problem why fix it,” said concerned citizen Karl Hertzog.
At Alabama Jacks, a well-known spot in the Florida Keys, the talk of genetically modified (GMO) mosquitoes was all the buzz.
“The amount of dengue and Chikungunya has been increasing every year,” said Michael Doyle, the executive director of Florida Keys Mosquito Control.
Doyle said they are running out of options that can kill aedes aegypti . The female aedes aegypti bite people and can spread the diseases.
Chikengunya packed hospitals and harmed economies across the Caribbean. The climate change makes the Florida Keys a vulnerable location.
Only a group of genetically modified males would be released. The males don’t bite only the females do. When the genetically modified males impregnate the females, their larvae would die and it would eventually eradicate the species.
“It’s more like a birth control type of thing,” said Doyle.
The idea is getting mixed reviews.
“Try to fix one problem and you start another,” said Hertzog.
“Anything modified kind of scares me,” said concerned citizen Patrick Frink.
Doyle said while this is the first time the modified mosquitoes would be set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood, they have been released before.
The company, Oxitec, out of the U.K., has released its mosquitoes in other countries and had no reports of problems.
“The female bite you and you end up with the flu or something like that,” said concerned citizen Dave Swearing.
Doyle said the female is not being modified so that should not be a factor. But there is still a gray area that when she is impregnated, if anything with her would change or if a female inadvertently would get modified.
However, worms and insects have been modified in this capacity in years past. Some think that this would be a great idea to control a potential problem that could affect the Florida Keys’ primary industry of tourism.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s exactly what needs to be done,” said concerned citizen Charlie Jones.
Doyle adds there is no impact when it comes to other animals in the environment.
“It only bites people. It does not have a relationship with the natural environment,” said Doyle.
An estimated 10 to 20 percent of those surveyed over past five years in the Florida Keys are against the move.