Skip to Main Content

A proposal to release genetically altered mosquitoes into the United States for the first time hit a possible stumbling block on Tuesday, with voters in the Florida Keys expressing ambivalence about a field trial there.

Residents split on the possibility of a trial, with one ballot initiative open only to residents of Key Haven, where the trial would take place, failing, and another initiative open to all residents of surrounding Monroe County being approved.

The results could make it more difficult to move ahead with the release of the mosquitoes in Key Haven.


The mosquitoes would have their DNA edited in a way designed to stave off diseases like Zika and dengue, but opponents of the field trial have raised concerns about the impact on the environment and public health.

The results of the referendums were nonbinding. The decision now falls to the five board members of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, who have the final say on the trial. Most have said they will follow the public vote, so it’s not clear how they will respond to the split.


Gene-edited Mos -KEY HAVEN - ONLY IF NO
Dom Smith/STAT

In the Key Haven referendum, almost two-thirds of voters opposed the trial. In the countywide referendum, about 58 percent of voters backed it.

The trial, if approved, would authorize the release of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes genetically altered by the British biotech company Oxitec. The genetic modification is aimed to ensure that any offspring produced by the Oxitec mosquitoes and the wild mosquitoes will die before they can mature and breed, cutting the population overall.

In field trials in Brazil, Panama, and elsewhere, mosquito populations declined by up to 90 percent following the introduction of the Oxitec mosquitoes. The mosquitoes also helped cut dengue virus transmission in trials, the company says.

In Florida, opponents of a trial have argued that they don’t want the area to be used as the site of an experiment and have said they do not believe studies that show the modified mosquitoes are safe for the environment.

This summer, however, the Food and Drug Administration gave its nod of approval to the trial, finding that it would be safe for both people and the environment.

Gene-edited Mos - MONROE - ONLY IF YES
Dom Smith/STAT

If the trial proceeds, the mosquitoes would be released in Key Haven in an experimental zone separated from a control zone by a buffer area. (The mosquitoes only fly a few hundred yards in their lives.) Experts would then compare the mosquito populations in the experimental and control zones to see if the trial did in fact reduce the insects’ numbers.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have spread dengue in the Florida Keys in the past, and are responsible for the ongoing Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade County. They also transmit chikungunya and yellow fever.

  • Here’s an idea… D D T…
    IT WORKS! IT IS NOT HAZARDOUS! Millions have died after political correctness and witch hunt destroyed this chemical just like the global warming hoax.

  • The results are in and the people of Key Haven, target of the unsafe and unnecessary GMO mosquito test, have overwhelmingly voted against it. With 32/33 precincts reporting, more than 65% voted NO.

    65.41% of Key Haven residents voted NO. These are the people who live in the proposed test area. Source: Monroe County Supervisor of Elections

    Astonishingly, the vote is considered “non-binding” by the Mosquito District, which has vocally proclaimed through its chairman Phil Goodman their own desire to conduct such a test, regardless of how the public feels. It would be a grievous miscarriage of democracy if the District were to decide to release genetically modified mosquitoes, created from 6 different species in a laboratory, on people who have voted NO.

    The United Nations framework for the use of genetically modified insects (yes, such a thing actually exists) requires human consent for human experimentation. Today, the people of Key Haven have declared that they will not be willing participants in a GMO mosquito experiment.

    Why did Key Haven vote no? Not only are they the neighborhood most directly affected by the test, they’re also the best informed. Residents of Key Haven have taken the time to learn about the real risks of GMO mosquitoes, including the rise of competitive species which only makes things worse. For these reasons and many others, informed citizens have chosen not to participate in any more of Oxitec’s dreamy sales plan.

    The rest of Monroe County, which includes all the island communities from Key Largo to Key West, was also permitted to vote on the issue. Although allowing any city to vote on the use of GMO animals is absolutely unprecedented, adding the entire county into the mix was really an attempt by the District to side-step the issue. In their minds, adding this second ballot question would allow them to simply move the test elsewhere, even if Key Haven voted no, as they did.

    This approach seemed like a good one to the District, because the rest of the Keys was not nearly as informed about the issue as Key West and Key Haven. After all, the subject has been on the radar here for nearly five years. Bring up GMO mosquitoes in the rest of the Keys and you can hardly find anyone who knows why there would be any concerns.

    Oxitec, through their various PR companies, used this lack of information to sell a Zika scare based on outright lies and scientific falsehoods. It seems the company’s portfolio of failed GMO products has caused such desperation that they’re willing to do almost anything to buy the vote here, including making secret deals with our former Mosquito District Director, sending out canvassers to pretend to be concerned local citizens (while paying them $15/hr), and even robocalling every home in Monroe County with a rigged survey that wouldn’t let people answer “NO.”

    42.14% of all Florida Keys residents voted NO on GMO mosquitoes. Source: Monroe County Supervisor of Elections

    This is the way, and the only way, that residents of the rest of the county could be convinced to permit a GMO mosquito test. But the results there were not as spectacular as Oxitec hoped. In fact, 42% of residents in all of Monroe County rejected the experiment. And this is without the “benefit” of being dragged through the issue since 2012. The world of GMO mosquitoes is so small that people in Miami don’t even know it’s an issue and they’re actually next on the target list.

    The most important factor in raising public awareness has been the work done by our blog, our Facebook page, and our partner organizations, Citizens for Safe Science and the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition. But that work, of out necessity, has been focused in Key West and the Lower Keys. There is no way that our small group of individuals could fully reach the 165 mile span that is Monroe County and deliver our educational message to every voter. In spite of our limited resources, more than 40% voted NO.

    Now is the time for all the people of Florida to become informed about the real risks of GMO mosquitoes and the litany of backroom deals that come along with them as part of the baggage. While our rights as individuals are diminished every day, we still have some left. The Key Haven GMO mosquito vote was the first of its kind in the world. Do not let it become the last. Take a stand in your own community against GMO mosquitoes!

    Read the full version with linked source documents on our blog:

Comments are closed.