GMO

When Monroe County held a nonbinding referendum last year on whether  to allow the experimental release of genetically modified mosquitoes, most voters said yes.

This was as the mosquito-borne Zika crisis was exploding. The Food and Drug Administration had already started to clear the way for the field trial.

But residents of Key Haven--the proposed site of the mosquito control experiment--voted against it. And the company that breeds the mosquitoes started looking for another site.

An argument that has been taking place in Mosquito Control board meetings, hotel conference rooms and Facebook comment strings finally moved to the ballot box on Tuesday.

With most of the vote in (32 of 33 precincts) the GMO mosquito question had split results.

Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons

Florida Keys officials have delayed a referendum on releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the population of a disease-carrying species.

  A survey of households in Key Haven, the neighborhood proposed for the first U.S. trial of genetically modified mosquitoes, found a majority of respondents opposed to the test.

Researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore sent surveys to every household in the neighborhood.

Vermont is shaking up the industry with a genetically modified food labeling law and that’s good news for Florida sugar growers.

While the FDA has released a preliminary finding of no significant impact from a proposed test of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, many in the neighborhood where the test would take place are opposed to the plan.

Oxitec, the company that makes the genetically modified version of aedes aegypti, is holding two public meetings in Key West this week to answer questions from the public, especially those in Key Haven. That neighborhood, a peninsula about five miles from Key West, is the proposed testing site.

In the fight against mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, domestic inspector Carrie Atwood has a few indispensable tools. She carries a dipper — essentially, a plastic cup at the end of a stick. She has a flashlight for looking into the backs of plants and pots. And she has a turkey baster.

"That's good for getting into bromeliads, which is a plant that holds water at the base of the leaf," Atwood said. "We use that to dip in there or just any other kind of tight space where the dipper won't go."

The FDA is considering whether to approve the experimental use of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys to help stop the spread of dengue fever and other diseases. Mosquito control officials in the region say they hope to get approval to begin releasing the insects in the Keys as soon as this spring.

There are few places in the United States where mosquito control is as critical as the Florida Keys. In this southernmost county of the continental U.S., mosquitoes are a year-round public health problem and controlling them is a top priority.

Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases.

Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood.

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow the experiment.