See also "Genetically Modified Bugs Glow Red and Self-Destruct, but Can They Keep Away Disease?" and "Petition Against GM Mosquitoes Has Nearly 100,000 Signatures"
The International Business Times on Monday morning published an article about the potential release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West. Unfortunately, the first sentence is a complete lie, and the article does nothing to foster a meaningful conversation about this emerging technology.
The IBT starts off its piece by declaring: "Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents have signed a petition opposing the release of mutant mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to kill off insects and curb disease."
When the story was published, the petition had only 103,209 signatures total, not hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, the petition is on Change.org, a global website with an international mailing list, and many of the signatures are from people outside of the Sunshine State.
Also, the mosquitoes aren't modified to kill off insects. They're modified to self-destruct and thus collapse the population of a single species of mosquito that's capable of spreading dengue fever.
Residents of Key West and beyond have raised many valid concerns over the potential experiment. And it's important that these concerns be disseminated through the media.
At the same time, the threat of dengue fever is growing around the world, especially in nearby countries such as the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes might be an elegant solution to dengue that is far less environmentally damaging than some of the chemicals currently used.
The IBT article wholly ignores the potential benefit of these GM mosquitoes and instead cherry-picks talking points that serve to spread fear and misinformation. It's this type of reporting that hinders reasonable discussion and makes people jump to conclusions based on hype, not fact.
Again, we encourage readers to take a look at our recent feature on the subject.