Florida Voters on Use of GMO Mosquitoes as Zika Solution

Non-binding ballot polls about GMO mosquitoes in Monroe County and Key Haven, Fla., have the interest of Miami-Dade County officials battling Zika.

As Zika Virus continues to spread in Miami-Dade County, and officials realize that conventional mosquito control measures aren't cutting it in places like skyscraper-filled, wind-swept Miami Beach, they are considering deploying GMO mosquitoes as a potential solution to eradicate the disease.

While the Food & Drug Administration has not approved a trial there, it approved a trial of Oxitec GMO mosquitoes for nearby Monroe County in August. Key Haven, the proposed release site, is not experiencing a Zika virus outbreak.

Next week, Monroe County is asking voters in a non-binding poll if they are in favor of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District testing the effectiveness of using GMO mosquitoes to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying Zika virus and other disease. The island of Kay Haven will hold its own poll in the upcoming election, as well.

While voter approval is not required, public response to testing GMO mosquitoes has not been favorable. A Change.org petition generated nearly 169,000 signatures, according to USA Today. Public comments were rich with concerns.

Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has repeatedly said that conventional mosquito control efforts are challenged to eradicate Zika virus. In late October, he made it very clear at the Miami CityLab 2016 conference that Zika virus is a public health threat that is here to stay.

Here’s the plain truth: that Zika and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti are really not controllable with current technologies. So we will see this become endemic,” Frieden said.

In a live interview at the conference, Frieden also noted there have been some successes in combating Zika, such as in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. The CDC director confirmed that Zika virus had stopped spreading after repeated rounds of aerial spraying of Naled, a neurotoxin pesticide that kills adult mosquitoes, and BTI, a bacterial laravacide that kills their eggs.

In Miami Beach, however, Naled hasn't worked, and there was considerable protest over the aerial spraying of toxins.

"I wouldn’t like to use Naled anymore given the fact that even after we sprayed we still continue to have locally transmitted cases. I would prefer to find another option,” said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Miami Beach commissioner.

Officials in Miami-Dade County are very interested in the results of Monroe County and Key Haven voter polls and are considering new mosquito control options--GMO mosquitoes, bat releases, mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria--and more, after the election.

Read the original story on the Miami Herald website.

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