TOP (GREEN): Potential Release Zone, CENTER (YELLOW): Buffer Zone, BOTTOM (BLUE): Non Release Zone.
According to Michael Welber, an activist opposing the planned release of genetically modified mosquitos in a Lower Keys neighborhood, and member of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, Key Haven residents oppose the plan.
Over the past three months, a team of five volunteers from the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition surveyed 283 households in Key Haven. The survey ended on Sunday and Weber says the results vary from Florida Keys Mosquito Control’s own findings
Of the 283 homes surveyed by Welber’s group, 74.9 percent said they did not support the GM mosquito release, 21.2 percent were in support, and 3.9 percent were either neutral or had no opinion.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) has released results from four studies it conducted, or were conducted on its behalf, ranging from June of 2012 to May of 2014. The FKMCD’s opinion polls show consistent support for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes. The most recent was conducted one year ago in person by its own staff, sampling 249 Key Haven residents. It found 59 percent of households in favor of the planned release and 32 percent neutral.
“I was happy to see that regardless of how people were asked, or who asked them, the latest survey that we did was consistent with the ones conducted by impartial researchers from a university,” said Michael Doyle, director of the FKMCD.
The FKMCD’s opinion surveys are weighted by five surveys, including two from the University of North Carolina and one from the University of Arizona. The methodology ranges from in-person interviews to mailed surveys.
When asked about the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition’s contradictory survey results, Doyle said, “I don’t know what they asked or what the protocol was for their survey.”
Welber said the coalition’s citizen-conducted survey was impartial and asked only one question: “Do you want GM mosquitoes released on Key Haven or not?” He counters that the district’s survey results are dated because of new information and growing public awareness since then.
“The FKMCD contacted 56 percent of all households [in Key Haven], or 249 residents. Of those surveyed, over half reported knowing nothing or very little about the technology of the potential release,” said Welber.
The next FKMCD board meeting takes place Tuesday, April 21 at 2 p.m. in Marathon at Mosquito Control’s headquarters. The board, at that time, is set to approve the final piece of the Oxitec contract. The FKMCD must secure the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the state before the test project can take place.
“If they get permission from the FDA it still would not persuade me,” said Welber.
For a look at the complete FKMCD surveys, visit www.keysmosquito.org and click on the genetically modified mosquito tab.
79.4% oppose release, 3.9% neutral
survey of 283 Key Haven residents
February to April, 2014
In-person informal survey conducted by Florida Keys Environmental Coalition volunteers.
59% favor release, 32% neutral
Survey of 249 Key Haven residents
March to May, 2014
In-person informal survey conducted by Florida Keys Mosquito Control District staff.
61% favor release, 21% neutral
Survey of 92 Keys residents
Mailed survey conducted by North Carolina State University, School of Public and International affairs.
60% favor release, 17% neutral
Survey of 205 Key West residents
In-person survey conducted by North Carolina State University, School of Public and International affairs.
57% favor release, 25% neutral
Survey of 195 Key West residents aware of proposed release
In-person survey conducted by the University of Arizona
About the release
The Key Haven neighborhood on Stock Island is being considered as a possible trial area for genetically modified mosquitoes, pending FDA and state approvals. According to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, the Ae. aegypti densities in Key Haven were similar to neighborhoods on the island of Key West. Because Key Haven is a peninsula, there is less likelihood for dispersal of the mosquito.
FKMCD Director Michael Doyle Doyle said the project has three safe guards. One, the Ae. Aegypti mosquitoes only travel the equivalent of three city blocks in their natural lifetime. (The Black Marsh Mosquito will travel up to 20 miles). Two, the mosquitoes have been genetically modified for sterility and will not be able to reproduce in the wild. Third, the lab-raised mosquito (150 generations) is less hardy than its counterpart in the wild, and has little chance of survival.