GMO Mosquitoes: FDA Grants Approval In Order To Fight Zika Virus, Is This A Good Idea?

The United States FDA has granted approval for GMO mosquitoes to be released in Florida in order to combat the Zika virus. These genetically modified mosquitoes have had their genes manipulated in such a way that a lethal gene will be passed on to all of the offspring that are made by the GMO mosquito. The release of GMO mosquitoes is a trial run in order to determine if this is a viable method to fight the Zika virus. The FDA has stated that there will be “no significant impact” on the local environment from the genetically modified mosquitoes.

The Zika virus is passed through the bite from a female mosquito (Aedes aegypti). The genetically modified mosquito will be a male Aedes aegypti. These mosquitoes will mate but due to the modification, the offspring will not survive. By making sure a lethal gene is passed on to the GMO’s offspring, the Zika virus will be eradicated due to no living female Aedes aegypti left.

This is not the first time that the thought of GMO mosquitoes was being considered as an option in Florida. From 2009 to 2010, dengue fever was spreading around Florida. Authorities were having trouble controlling the spread of the illness, and that is when the GMO option went from science fiction to reality. Dengue fever is also carried by the Aedes aegypti.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are behind the plan to use GMO mosquitoes as a weapon against Zika.

Haydn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, is the man behind the GMO idea in Florida. Parry anticipated that the FDA would approve his plan, but getting the local population to believe in it may be a different story.

“While we didn’t expect anything different, we’re pleased the FDA has now published their data. Now we want to get everybody comfortable with the decision.”

Mila de Mier is one of the locals that is firmly against the use of GMO mosquitoes.

“Less than a mile from the release site is a senior center and a local school. That area was not one that was affected by dengue. Not a single case ever. So why does the FDA want to do an experiment here when they can do this all over the world? People don’t want to be guinea pigs. There has been no acceptance from community members. If the local and federal government fail to protect us and our wishes, our last option will be to trust the judicial system and bring it to the court. A legal battle is an option at this point.”

Haydn Parry was quick to counter Mier’s argument.

“In any public health program it’s hard to get 100% support. I’m sure there will be some that don’t agree. But we have a very significant public health threat before us. Time is not on our side if you look at how Zika has been spreading. The sooner we can get going and show what we can do, the sooner we can make a difference in the fight against this virus. What’s very important in this case is that it’s not just the FDA who have evaluated our mosquito. The FDA have used an expert group drawn from Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Center for Veterinary Medicine, so that everyone involved had a chance for input.”

According to the law, community members have 30 days to file their comments or complaints with the FDA. After the 30 day period expires, the FDA will go through the comments and complaints and make a final determination.

Do you think the use of GMO mosquitoes is a good idea?

[Image Via AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File]