April 19, 2012
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Dear Governor Scott,
The undersigned consumer and environmental groups urge you to prevent
the experimental release of British biotechnology company Oxitec’s
genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
This experiment would be a first in the United States. The supposed
purpose of this experiment is to determine if the Aedes aegypti mosquito
population will be reduced, as genetically engineered males mate with
wild females, passing on a genetic defect that kills their offspring
before they reach adulthood. The company claims this would theoretically
reduce the mosquito population and the prevalence of dengue fever.
While mosquitoes that breed themselves out of existence may seem like
a new option for dealing with the threat of disease and an irritating
daily fact of life for Floridians, it has yet to be proven that this
engineered mosquito is safe for people or the environment – or that it
can effectively reduce the spread of dengue fever.
This would be the first genetically engineered insect to be
introduced in the United States with the intent to wipe out a wild
population in the name of disease control. Oxitec has already released
millions of GE insects into the wild in South America and the Caribbean
without studying potential environmental or health risks. Now Floridians
are set to be Oxitec’s next guinea pigs, despite the fact that the
Florida Keys had no reported cases of dengue fever in 2011.
The release of the company’s transgenic mosquitoes by the Florida
Keys Mosquito Control District was planned to occur as early as spring
According to the Associated Press, during a two-month trial, between
5,000 and 10,000 of these transgenic mosquitoes would be released into
an undisclosed 36-square-acre block near the Key West Cemetery.
The experiment raises serious concerns around the impact releasing
genetically engineered mosquitoes could have on public health and the
environment. For example, biting female mosquitoes could inject an
engineered protein into humans along with other proteins from the
mosquitos’ salivary gland. Oxitec has yet to conduct or publish any
study showing that this protein is not expressed in the salivary gland
and therefore cannot be passed on to humans. This is a real concern,
even though officials only plan to release non-biting males, as
genetically engineered females can also be accidentally released.
The company expects each batch to contain less than one percent females.
This is because mosquito pupae are tiny and sorting them for a
large-scale release leaves plenty of room for error. Additionally, 3.5
percent of the insects in an Oxitec lab test survived to adulthood
despite presumably carrying the lethal gene. These two facts combined
mean that there will be a significant number of genetically engineered
female mosquitoes in the environment that bite humans and spread
disease. Since Aedes aegypti females bite many people in one feeding, it
is able to spread disease even at low population levels. This means
Oxitec’s technology might not even work in limiting the spread of
disease while still exposing Keys residents to possible risks.
Despite the grave and growing public concerns that have been raised
about the genetically engineered mosquitoes, there is no indication that
the U.S. Food & Drug Administration or any other federal or state
agency has evaluated the safety of the company’s planned release. Nor
has there been an independent analysis to examine the public health or
environmental impacts of this release. While it does appear Oxitec has a
pending application, no agency seems to know who is actively
responsible for considering it. Recent reports claim that despite a lack
of clarity on which federal agency will have oversight over Oxitec’s
transgenic mosquitoes, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is
still interested in moving ahead with their field trial in 2012.
Communities near the proposed test areas should not become Oxitec’s
laboratory for the field release of genetically engineered mosquitoes.
Since the federal government is not actively regulating these insects,
Florida’s government should step up to protect Floridians and prohibit
the release of these unregulated and uncontrolled mosquitoes in South
On April 3, 2012, the Key West City Commission voted 5 to 2 to pass a
resolution objecting to the release of Oxitec’s genetically engineered
mosquitoes. Please stand with Key West residents and their elected
officials and oppose the release of these genetically engineered
If you have questions or need more information, please contact Meagan Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (305) 879-3042.
Florida Keys Environmental Coalition
Food & Water Watch
Friends of the Earth
GMO Free Florida
Sierra Club Florida
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam Florida congressional delegation
Etiquetas: en, Florida, Mosquitos