The bad news: Zika is coming to Florida. This past Friday, two new cases of the virus linked to serious birth defects were reported in the state, and scientists believe it could spread rapidly come summer as mosquito populations explode. And we're still a long way away from a vaccine for the virus.
The good news: Scientists still might have a way to stop its spread — by releasing a swarm of genetically modified mosquitoes across the Florida Keys. Yes, it sounds like the premise of pulpy Michael Crichton novel that ends with a zombie horde infected with GMO mosquito viruses.
But it's looking ever more likely to happen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given tentative approval to the plan, and the New York Times published a lengthy op-ed this weekend arguing in favor of the plan. And several new polls show that most of the public
New Times first looked in-depth at the idea of unleashing GMO mosquitoes in the Keys in 2012, when another virus — dengue fever — threatened to overtake South Florida. Scientists began looking
The specially bred mosquitoes have a "kill switch" in their genes: When they breed with the
But critics, such as this woman at a public hearing in the Keys, worried about unintended consequences:
An elderly woman with a refined British accent who didn't want to reveal her name worries that decimating the population of one mosquito species could damage the local food chain and ecosystem. "Everything has a purpose," she says.
Mila de Mier, a real-estate agent who organized this get-together and started a petition against the experiment, rattles off a litany of concerns in her thick Spanish accent. "They're going to spend our money for us to become guinea pigs," she says. "We want this place to remain natural, to be the way it is. We don't need their mosquitoes... Mr. Doyle wants to be a pioneer. He wants to be the first in the U.S. to do this type of experiment."
The GMO mosquitoes were never used in the dengue fight. And until the Z
The threat of Zi
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And more importantly, the FDA has given preliminary approval to the idea. Last month, it ruled that the mosquitoes probably wouldn't harm humans or the environment.
But the feds have decided to give the public another 30 days to comment on whether to begin a trial of the GMO mosquitoes in the Keys before ruling on whether to go on with the project, which would start with a trial in a neighborhood of about 400 houses called Key Haven.
You can add your voice here. But given the grave threat posed by Z