Study Shows Oxitec GM Mosquitoes Work: What It Means for a Florida Experiment
A new study appearing in Nature Biotechnology shows that releasing the genetically modified mosquitoes -- which are tweaked to pass down a self-destruct gene to offspring -- at a test site in Grand Cayman resulted in an 80 percent decline in the population of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that spreads dengue fever. The publication of the findings should go a long way in quelling accusations and rumors that Oxitec is looking to turn the Keys into something akin to The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Although there hasn't been a confirmed locally acquired case of dengue in the Keys since November 2010, the mosquito team is interested in releasing Oxtiec mosquitoes as a safeguard against another potential outbreak. Fears are that with cases of dengue soaring in nearby Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, it's only a matter of time before the disease gets a foothold in South Florida. Treating dengue isn't cheap, and an outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease would undoubtedly scare off some tourists.
There's also going to be continuous uproar from folks who are opposed to genetically modified anything, regardless of the potential benefits and newly published data. Signatures continue to pile up on the petition against an experiment in the Keys, and activist groups around the world churn out news releases portraying Oxitec as a mini-Monsanto bent on mutation domination.
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