Voters in This Florida County Just Approved GM Mosquitoes to Fight Zika

But there’s one small catch.

Aedes aegyptiJames Gathany/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The first cases of locally transmitted Zika in the continental United States showed up in a Miami suburb nearly four months ago. On Tuesday, the voters of Monroe County, more than 100 miles south, voted 58 percent to 42 percent in favor of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes that could reduce populations of Aedes aegypti, the culprit bloodsucker. One small catch, though: The community of Key Haven, where the mosquitoes would be released, opposed the resolution by a 65-35 margin.

The nonbinding survey resolution was the result of local outcry in August, when the FDA approved the first US field trial for Key Haven. Officials from the mosquito control for the Florida Keys said they intended to honor the will of the people. But given the split result, it’s not entirely clear how the board will proceed.

Here’s a little background from a piece I wrote on the science of the high-tech skeeters:

Scientists at Oxitec, a UK-based company that has spent years honing its techniques in the lab and in the field, have altered Aedes aegypti—the primary mosquito conduit for Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya—with a gene that causes its progeny to die in the larval stage. The researchers sort the altered mosquitoes by sex and release only the males, which then go out and mate with wild females, dooming their offspring. The modified mosquitoes, which can only survive a few days outside the climate-controlled comforts of a laboratory, also carry a gene for a fluorescent protein that lets researchers distinguish modified mosquitoes from wild ones. Both of the inserted genes are nontoxic and nonallergenic.

Oxitec’s CEO, Hadyn Parry, issued the following statement on Tuesday evening:

The voters of Monroe County have clearly spoken. By approving this referendum, they have highlighted the need for new and targeted solutions that will fight against the invasive mosquitoes that carry Zika, dengue and other dangerous viruses. With vaccines not immediately available and many communities deeply concerned about the effects of extensive chemical spraying, there is a major need for alternative solutions to combat the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes. CDC Director Thomas Frieden recently noted, “Zika, and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti, are really not controllable with current technologies.”

While we did not win over every community in the Keys, Oxitec appreciates the support received from the community, and is prepared to take the next steps with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board to trial its environmentally friendly and non-persisting mosquito control solution.

To read more about the proposed trial, history, science, and controversy surrounding GM mosquitos check out our explainer here.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate