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Tonight and Friday: Meetings and Film About Possible Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in Florida

In a 2012 cover story, we told you how scientists were proposing the introduction of genetically engineered mosquitoes to Key West. A for-profit British company called Oxitec promised that these creatures, whose genes would be tweaked to make them glow red and self-destruct, would help lower the mosquito population and reduce the risk of dengue fever breaking out in the tourist-dependent Keys.

The company was hoping to land a state contract. A source familiar with the process says that the governor's policy director has been meeting with parties who might be affected and that ultimately, the decision rests with Gov. Rick Scott.

According to a news release, tonight "at Paideia Classical Academy in Coconut Creek, a panel of experts will discuss the potential health, environmental, and economic risks this genetically engineered insect experiment could have in Florida. Additional events are scheduled for West Palm Beach on Friday, January 24 and in Key West on Monday, January 27."

The release states:

"The GE Mosquito Trial Experiment is unnecessary, risky, and expensive," states Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology. "The Florida Keys do not have any dengue fever cases, so we do not need this experiment." Florida entomologist Dr. Marjorie Hoy states, "There is a long list of scientific questions that require answers so that regulatory officials can make informed decisions about releases of genetically modified insects into the environment, even for temporary releases."

Speakers include:

-- Jeffrey Smith, "international best-selling author and filmmaker and Executive Director at the Institute for Responsible Technology... His work expertly summarizes why the safety assessments conducted by the FDA and regulators worldwide teeter on a foundation of outdated science and false assumptions, and why genetically engineered foods must urgently become our nation's top food safety priority. Mr. Smith will share what people can do to avoid GE foods in their diet as well as discuss the unchartered risks of the GE mosquito."

-- Scientist Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, "a biologist and ecologist who did his Ph.D. in the techniques of Integrated Pest Management, he has identified many an insect for public concern. He develops policy, testifies before government agencies, speaks widely at conferences in the US and abroad, and speaks on critical food safety and environmental health issues including mad cow disease, genetic engineering, and pesticide use."

-- Dr. Lynn Lafferty, ND; Dr. Anna Maria Clement; Barry Wray, executive director, Florida Keys Environmental Coalition; among others.

The event is presented by GMO Free Florida, Food & Water Watch, and the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition on these dates, at these locations:

Coconut Creek: Thursday, January 23 at the St. Luke Orthodox Chapel/Paideia Classical Academy, 2370 Hammock Blvd, Coconut Creek, Florida Press Reception 4pm, Mosquito Film 6:00pm, Panel of Experts, 7:00pm Featuring Jeffrey Smith, Institute for Responsible Technology, Dr. Michael Hansen, Consumers Union, Dr. Lynn Lafferty, ND, and a Local Entomologist.

West Palm Beach: Friday, January 24, 5:30pm - 9:30pm Hippocrates Health Institute, 1443 Palmdale Court, West Palm Beach, FL 33411 Pre-Registration for Vegan Dinner and Lecture $25, call 800-842-2125 to sign up

Key West: Monday, January 27, 5:30 - 9:00pm Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Avenue, Key West, FL 33040 Reception 5:30- 6:15, Documentary Film: Scratching the Surface, 6:30pm,  followed by Jeffrey Smith and Panel of Experts

For more information, see gmofreeflorida.org, Florida Keys Environmental Coalition at FKEC.org, or foodandwaterwatch.org.

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