Documents obtained by Never Again show that the Florida Keys Mosquito District has both State and Federal approval to begin releasing mosquitoes with Wolbachia immediately. The Wolbachia option, which uses a natural insect bacteria instead of GMO’s, is inherently safer than the Oxitec artificial mosquito which has already been shown to increase the populations of other biting, disease-carrying mosquito species.
The Wolbachia test can begin immediately and continue through December of next year. After each release, FKMCD must notify the State of the location and number of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes which were released. The approved label from the EPA states that the recommended application is 300,000 mosquitoes per release, once a week, for 6 months. This is far lower than the number which would be needed in a GMO mosquito test which requires a total of 14 million mosquitoes with releases 3 times per week for nearly 2 years. Female mosquitoes are not permitted to be released during the test and each batch must be hand-sorted and inspected twice to ensure it contains only males.
The Keys test is an extension of a trial now being conducted in Fresno, California, site of that state’s worst dengue infections. The technique, developed by the University of Kentucky, uses a mosquito which is infected with Wolbachia bacteria. Wolbachia only affects insect species and doesn’t transfer to humans. It’s already present in over half of the world’s insect species. Mosquitoes which carry Wolbachia have been to shown to be unable to carry Zika, dengue, or yellow fever. The bacteria effectively cuts off their ability to contract the disease. As an additional benefit, the offspring of mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia are truly sterile; their eggs never hatch. In this way, Wolbachia provides both a disease control and a population control tool in one method.
Oxitec’s GMO mosquitoes do not have any built-in disease suppression and they aren’t truly sterile, meaning Oxitec GMO mosquitoes can also bite human beings and transmit disease. In addition, the Oxitec technique lacks proper risk assessment or even outside testing by other scientists.
Now that the safer Wolbachia option is ready to go in the Florida Keys, there is no reason at all to subject our citizens or our environment to the unnecessarily risky GMO mosquito test.
Vote NO on GMO mosquitoes and contact your commissioners to tell them you want Wolbachia instead.