Safe to say, most people hate mosquitoes. They hate them for reasons ranging from their ruining a gorgeous, cocktailed-up sunset to causing angry, itchy red spots on ankles, to carrying scary diseases such as Zika and dengue fever.
But biotech firm Oxitec says it has a solution. At some point this year, with the permission of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, the company will release their genetically modified male mosquitoes in targeted areas of the island chain. The engineered bugs are designed to mate with the females in the local population. Their genetic modification means that female offspring die before reaching adulthood, reducing the mosquito population. (Only females bite.) Bye-bye pesky skeeters, hello peaceful evenings and good health?
Concerned locals say it’s not so simple. A group of about 30 citizens gathered at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo on the morning of Feb. 21 to hold signs in protest of Oxitec’s plan.
“We want better regulation. Science is growing faster than our regulatory agencies. We’ve been battling the EPA for five years to regulate this,” said Mara Daly, who helped organize the event. She told Keys Weekly, “I am really getting tired of the Oxitec press releases stating how much the locals are in full support of this trial.”