South Flordia residents are angered this week as local government officials and a biotechnology company move ahead with their plan to release up to a billion gene-hacked mosquitoes over two years.
Oxitec, a British biotech company, developed the 'franken-squitoes' and partnered with Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to release the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes this week.
The project aims to decrease the total population of Aedes aegypti, one of several mosquito species that can carry diseases including dengue, Zika, and yellow fever.
Oxitec Head of Regulator Affairs Dr. Nathan told Fox News that genetically altered non-biting male mosquitos would be released into the wild with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage.
Rose said the project is critical as the US records more and more mosquito-borne diseases. He said these mosquitoes are moving farther and farther north from the Gulf Coast into more and more of the continental US.
Rose continued: "So, the diseases are a big problem because these particular diseases don't have any effective vaccines or medications to treat them [and] the only way to control them is actually to control the mosquitoes that spread them..."
Not everyone in the Florida Keys is overly enthusiastic about GE mosquito running amuck.
Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the plan last year. He told Common Dreams, "this is a dark moment in history. The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk amid a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec's profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases."
Oxitec claims there's strong public support among residents though many in the community are against the project.
"My family's bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent," Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said Monday.