Genetically modified mosquitoes are to be released in Key West starting this week.
What does it all mean for Key West residents, and should you be worried?
Nobody wants to be the guinea pig for biotech experiments. The thought of having generally modified creatures released at scale in your area may seem like the begging of a zombie-apocalypse movie directed by Tarantino, but there may be some merit in all of this. We’re quickly going over the positives and negatives in this article and let you decide for yourself if this is something to get frustrated about.
Benefits of releasing mosquitos in Key West:
- Modified mosquitos don’t bite humans
- Protect your friends and family from diseases
- Curb the spread of Aedes Aegypti in among tourists areas of Key West
- Stop the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, including Zika and Dengue Fever
- Help save countless lives in Florida and possibly around the world
- Increased tourism from travelers who are sensitive to mosquito bites
We’re talking about the OX5034 mosquito, or else known as the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is originally being developed in Oxford, UK.
Oxford Insect Technologies (Oxitec) is a British-based biotech company that produces genetically modified insects and apparently one of the key players in curbing pest control. The company has originally tested OX5034 in Brazil, where the results were nothing less than staggering. The country’s most endangered areas are now recording a 94% drop in swarms of human-biting mosquitoes.
Why is Key West the next in line for genetically modified mosquitoes?
You may start seeing whitish-larvae boxes in corners on Duval Street, Historic Seaport, Casa Marina, Bahama Village, Truman Annex, New Town, and all other highly touristic and inhabited places in Key West.
Together with The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD), the local authorities are knocking on the doors of many Key West residents with unusual requests for depositing mosquito breeding larvae boxes in their front or back yards. The main reason behind this is not as sinister as it may sound at first. Modified Aedes aegypti has a range of just a couple hundred feet, and it doesn’t procreate. Because of the short range and lifespan of OX5034, Scientists have to spread out the release over different populated hubs.
As we all know, mosquitos surface as the heat climbs and stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why you don’t see mosquitos in the winter. The Florida Keys, and especially Key West, are home to about 13 pest mosquito species that may carry life-complicating disease.
Oxitec has developed genetically modified male buddies that should effectively curb the procreation of the species, leveling it down to sustainable proportions. Key West should continue being home to many dangerous mosquitos, but not at the current scale.
Modified males pass a specific protein to female mosquitoes during mating, which makes them impotent to produce future offspring.
One billion mosquitos being let in the Florida Keys is a scary number
The biggest argument against the release of OX5034 in places like Duval Street, Historic Seaport, Casa Marina, or Bahama Village is fear and discomfort.
Many residents believe we’re meddling with nature in a way the only god should, and many share this fear. However, humans have been meddling with nature since we started using fire, driving cars, or installing air cons in every condo around South Florida. We have been changing the local environment to better fit our needs for thousands of years. The release of modified mosquitos is nothing new or out of human character.
However, the biochemical side of it is the perfect breathing ground for conspiracies. You may hear how Bill Gates or any other force is plaguing your doorstep for whatever reason. Most people share the discomfort in this sense. But the release of mosquitos is just a regular policy to make life more bearable in warm areas. If proven successful, authorities are planning to replicate this model in other badly infested places worldwide.
Modified mosquitos should curb the spread of disease and make Key West a more enjoyable place to live in and visit during hot weather days.