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Maker of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Pledges Transparency

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Alexandre Carvalho (Oxitec)
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The for-profit company Oxitec has been in the news lately.

Federal regulators recently gave the OK for Oxitec to start testing its genetically engineered mosquitoes.

Come election time in November, the residents of Monroe County will vote on whether or not they want the engineered mosquitoes in their area.

Oxitec wants to test the mosquitoes in the Key Haven community just outside Key West. Residents have voiced an outcry against the synthetic mosquitoes.

Derric Nimmo  is Oxitec’s product development manager.

When asked how he plans to gain the trust of residents, he said he counts on being transparent.

“We have been very, very open about everything,” Nimmo said. “We publish all of our results, all of the technology -how it works - and we also have been very public about how much it will be costing.”

Oxitec's male mosquitoes have short life spans, and their offspring die before reaching adulthood.

Nimmo says residents who might be skeptical shouldn’t compare the mosquitoes to genetically modified crops, which durably last longer in the environment.

“Our technology, we call it ‘self-limiting’ because where we’ve done the trials and we’ve stopped releases, within six to eight weeks there’s nothing left in the environment whatsoever, this does not persist,” Nimmo said.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board has already allowed Oxitec to use its facility in  Marathon -- for use elsewhere.

Nimmo says if the Keys mosquito control board approves the trial, he can see beginning as soon as early 2017.