Next in GMO: Mosquitoes?

FDA is reviewing whether to unleash them in Florida Keys
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2015 1:03 PM CST
In this Sept. 25, 2014 file photo, containers hold genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquitoes.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

(Newser) – No word on whether "annoying buzzing" can be genetically eliminated, but the FDA is looking at whether it will allow genetically modified mosquitoes to be unleashed in the Florida Keys, in the name of stopping the spread of Dengue and chikungunya viruses. As the AP reports, British researchers have developed skeeters with synthetic DNA that's deadly to mosquito larvae; they want to release GMO males to mate with females in the wild, thus killing their offspring. Pest control officials say that mosquitoes have developed resistance to four of six insecticides they use, and that they're spreading viruses as a result. "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," says the director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

But if there's something people hate more than mosquitoes, it's genetically modified mosquitoes: A petition against the move has upward of 130,000 signatures, and many say there's no guarantee of the modified DNA making it into humans. "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," says one entomologist. "Consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there's no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that's kind of a gray matter." The FDA says it's "thoroughly" reviewing the case, but a local resident is skeptical: "Why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens?" (Mosquitoes have also been looked at as a cure for malaria.)

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