750 Million Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Approved for Release in Florida Keys – First Time Ever in USA

Marathon, FL—The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) approved the first-ever U.S. release of genetically engineered [GE] mosquitoes.

The GE mosquitoes, a strain of transgenically modified Aedes aegypti, are designed to kill the wild strain, which can transmit yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika fevers.

The GE mosquitoes contain a dominant lethal gene and were developed by a commercial company, Oxitec Ltd, a US-owned, British-based company.

In 2009 and 2010, local outbreaks on the Keys of dengue fever, spread by Aedes aegypti, prompted the FKMCD to spend millions on aerial, truck and backpack spraying and the use of mosquito-eating fish.  They were unable to eliminate Aedes aegypti. Larvicides and pesticides had been largely ineffective.

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The rise and fall of Aedes Aegypti

Though Aedes aegypti is 1% of the Keys’ mosquito population, FKMCD budgets more than $1 million a year, a tenth of its funding, to fighting it.

In 2012, the district contacted Oxitec, which had developed a male mosquito named OX513A, programmed to die before adulthood unless it was grown in water that contained the antibiotic tetracycline.
The new approval permits the release of 750 million of the male GE mosquitoes over a two-year period in Monroe County, Florida, which may begin in 2021, and against the objection of many local residents and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups.
The proposal has already won state and federal approval.
The male GE mosquito has been altered to produce female offspring that die in the larval stage, well before hatching and growing large enough to bite and spread disease. Only the female mosquito bites for blood, which she needs to mature her eggs. Males feed only on nectar and are, thus, not a carrier for disease.

Continual, large-scale releases of the OX5034 GE males could eventually cause the temporary collapse of the wild population.  Release of this strain in large numbers in other countries has been effective in reducing populations of Ae. aegypti by up to 95%, according to Oxitec. The mosquito is also approved to be released into Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021, according to Oxitec,.

“This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases,” Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen said in a statement.
FKMCBD have received more than 2,000 comments from Florida residents opposing the release of the GE mosquitoes.

Board members rejected the proposal for a referendum on November’s ballot, which would have asked Monroe County residents to vote on whether to accept or reject the GE mosquito trial.

The public forum on Oxitec’s recent permit application garnered 31,174 comments opposing release and 56 comments in support.

Community members asked the FKMCD to reject the field trial application, pointing out the lack of data demonstrating that Oxitec’s mosquitoes will be safe and effective, the likelihood that biting females will be released, thus putting humans and animals at risk, and the lack of free and prior informed consent of people living in the area.

Dana Perls, food and technology Program Manager at Friends of the Earth said, “This approval is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”

Scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and which may be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.

Environmental groups worry that the spread of the genetically modified male genes into the wild population could potentially harm threatened and endangered species of birds, insects, and mammals that feed on the mosquitoes.

Oxitec has field-trialed their GM mosquitoes in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Panama. In Brazil, researchers from the Powell lab at Yale University confirmed that the mosquito’s engineered genes spread into wild populations of mosquitoes.

In Brazil, people reportedly complained of being forced to breathe in and eat mosquitoes.

Genetic sampling from the target population 6, 12, and 27–30 months after releases commenced provided evidence that portions of the transgenic strain genome have been incorporated into the wild population.

Evidently, rare viable hybrid offspring between the release strain and the wild population are sufficiently robust to be able to reproduce in nature.

Under laboratory conditions, 3%–4% of the offspring from matings of OX513A with wild type do survive to adulthood although they are weak and it is not known if they are fertile.

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The EPA permit requires Oxitec to notify state officials 72 hours before releasing the mosquitoes and conduct ongoing tests for at least 10 weeks to ensure none of the female mosquitoes reach adulthood.
Public relations campaigns have been launched to remind Floridians that the GE mosquito doesn’t bite because he’s male.

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Frank Parlato


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About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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