While hundreds of concerned Miami Beach citizens turned out to protest the city’s recent spraying of Naled pesticide, few were aware of the GMO mosquito agenda of the September 14 meeting. Buried over 1,000 pages deep in the meeting agenda was a plan to sell the city GMO mosquitoes from Oxitec.
The meeting was filled to capacity with many protesters left to watch outside. No one was permitted to hold signs, which had to be left along an outside wall. A large police presence was visible with 4-6 officers inside and outside all entrances and on both floors, armed with firearms and tasers. There were also numerous unexplained “security” types hanging around the doors, on the dais, and in among the crowd. There was no doubt that this meeting was going to be explosive.
Oxitec, the maker of GMO mosquitoes and other failed artificial animals, must have thought it was an important meeting. They sent chief scientist Derric Nimmo all the way from Brazil. You may recognize Nimmo as the man who is supposed to run our secret GMO mosquito lab here in the Keys. In Monroe County, even public employees are expected to report to this salesman for a $3B biotech firm that wants to be the “Coca-Cola” of GMO mosquitoes and it looks like Miami is cooking up their own secret deal with the company.
At first, officers tried to deny the Key West crew entrance to the council chambers, claiming both the main floor and balcony were full. We pointed out that we had reserved seats in the front row and, despite objections, pushed past the cops to meet our compatriots who had arrived earlier.
The first two hours of the meeting were overtaken by protesters who objected to spraying of the recognized neurotoxin, Naled. But once the protesters had been swindled out of their vote on a resolution to stop the spraying, most went home and missed out on the real purpose of the meeting. The City had used the Naled story to distract the public from the GMO mosquito issue, knowing the same people would also loudly protest a GMO experiment.
Buried on page 1951 of a meeting agenda spanning 2,227 pages (you can’t make this stuff up) is lengthy presentation from Oxitec. The committee was in such a rush to agree to “investigating” GMO mosquitoes that Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez moved to do so before Nimmo had even finished speaking.
Rosen Gonazalez herself introduced the agenda item the same day, even though Nimmo must have made earlier travel arrangements. The company’s slides were helpfully preloaded into the city’s public television system and appeared on the TV monitors. No other speaker all day got to show advertising or any other kind of slides.
So just who arranged this cozy visit and media campaign from Derric Nimmo? Commissioner Rosen Gonazalez displayed a discomforting familiarity with Oxitec’s PR story and she was suspiciously enthusiastic about the proposal, going so far as to mention GMO mosquitoes early in the day while the topic was still Naled sprays. (She was met with resounding objections from the audience). What previous conversations have the commissioners had with Oxitec? We know already that Miami intends to buy GMO mosquitoes from the secret lab in Marathon. Which politician will be the first to carry the torch? I think we have our answer.
Your Never Again crew from Key West had driven up specifically to help present the facts on GMO mosquitoes that Oxitec was sure to leave out. But after sending home most of the protesters who might have something to say about GMO mosquitoes, you don’t think the City was going to let us speak, do you? Thankfully, we were able to overcome the commission’s attempt to shut us down, finally receiving permission to speak from the Mayor. See the video here featuring concerned Key West citizens who went to protect Miami Beach from an issue the city itself wasn’t even largely aware of.
Which raises an important point. Key West is not only meant to be the test for Oxitec’s GMO mosquitoes all across the US. We also have to set the standard for scientific testing, transparency, and human consent in the use of bio-engineered animals everywhere. If we allow this company to move forward with its risky product, we are doing a serious disservice to our brothers and sisters all over the world who face an unknown array of bio-engineered animals from the labs of tomorrow. The decisions made here will affect the way GMO animals are used for generations to come. We owe it to them to ensure that we are doing so safely and effectively — or not at all.