British researchers are planning on releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, if they win approval from the FDA. According to the researchers, the GMO mosquitoes were created to fight against the painful viral threats dengue and chikungunya. The plan is to allow the genetically modified mosquitoes to roam free and breed, while injecting their victims with a vaccine to prevent the viruses from spreading. Although the concept seems safe, over 130,000 individuals have signed a petition on Change.org to stop the release, fearing being bitten by a genetically modified creature could cause more harm than good.
According to Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, the experiment would be conducted as a means to see if it is possible to use the cause of the disease as the treatment as well. Although the thought of releasing genetically modified creatures out into the world, especially near residential neighborhoods, has not been so close to happening before, it seems that the reality is near.
Many opponents of the release are claiming that GMO creatures are too new in the world to chance letting loose in the fragile ecosystems of the world. Even those that are for the release feel as though the responsible thing to do is to take more time to study the effects it could have on the ecosystem, rather than rush it, according to the Charlotte Observer. Phil Lounibos, a researcher that studies mosquitoes, is worried about the GMO aspect.
“I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public,”
Researchers, according to the Jamaica Observer, worry that if nothing is done to battle the threats of dengue and chikungunya, an epidemic may develop over the next few years. Currently, there are no vaccines or cures for either of the painful viruses. If not controlled, Doyle stated that those who are infected could spread it to mosquitoes, which in turn can spread them to other humans. Breeding mosquitoes that contain a vaccine may be the key to stop the spread.
“An arriving person would be infectious for several days, and could infect many of the local mosquitoes. Within a few weeks you’d likely end up with several infected mosquitoes for each infected visitor.”
Chujunguna has already overwhelmed many Caribbean hospitals, and dengue is as big of a threat. How do you feel about releasing GMO mosquitoes upon the world?
[Photo Courtesy: The Telegraph]