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Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes may be Released in Florida

Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes may be Released in Florida

How do you control it?

I recently reported on the chikungunya virus that is raging in South America. There are concerns that Florida could be the next epicenter of the epidemic.

Thanks to climate change and globalization, the Keys are also increasingly home to killer tropical diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya spread by Aedes aegypti, a tiger-striped mosquito that originated in Africa. Just last year, a few dozen people in the Sunshine State were infected with these formerly exotic illness as they made their up the Gulf Coast.

“The threat is greater than I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Walter Tabachnick, director of the Florida Medical Entomological Laboratory, said last year. “Sooner or later, our mosquitoes will pick it up and transmit it to us. That is the imminent threat.”

One could quibble as to if the cause of the increase, but the threat is increasingly concerning public health officials no matter the reason.

In response, one British research and development firm is trying to obtain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to run an experiment in the Florida Keys…involving the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes:

Enter Oxitec, a British biotech firm launched by Oxford University researchers. They patented a method of breeding Aedes aegypti with fragments of proteins from the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria as well as genes from coral and cabbage. This synthetic DNA has been used in thousands of experiments without harming lab animals, but it is fatal to the bugs, killing mosquito larvae before they can fly or bite.

Oxitec’s lab workers manually remove modified females, aiming to release only males, which feed on nectar and don’t bite for blood like females do. The modified males then mate with wild females whose offspring die, reducing the population.

…Company spokeswoman Chris Creese said the test will be similar in size to Oxitec’s 2012 experiment in the Cayman Islands, where 3.3 million modified mosquitoes were released over six months, suppressing 96 percent of the targeted bugs. Oxitec says a later test in Brazil also was successful, and both countries now want larger-scale projects.

Given how many people complain about genetically modified foods, it should come as no surprise that Florida residents are uncomfortable with the idea of a blood-drawing insect being genetically altered—using bits and pieces from herpes viruses and E.coli bacteria. Nearly 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding that no testing be conducted until third-party research as been concluded.

…What about our native species of Florida Keys Bats. Are there any studies being conducted to see if these mosquitoes will harm the native bat population?

Why would we not expect GM (genetically modified) insects, especially those that bite humans, to have similar unintended negative consequences? Will the more virulent Asian tiger mosquito that also carries dengue fill the void left by reductions in A. aegypti? Will the dengue virus mutate (think antibiotic resistant MRSA) and become even more dangerous?

…Where is the third-party, peer-reviewed research on effectiveness and safety of GM mosquitoes other than Oxitec’s own claims of success? Don’t let Oxitec bully our community…

As much as I appreciate the benefits of modern science, I can’t help but recall this scene from a movie about a DNA experiment that went in an entirely different direction than the one the scientists intended:

However, experts are looking at another innovative technology that could help with Florida’s bug problem. Send in the drones!

Floating in place until Glenn Cullingford, chief pilot for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, directs it from his controller, the unmanned droned is a fraction of the size of the helicopters and planes buzzing at Florida Keys Marathon Airport.

But don’t let the smaller stature fool you — it may become one of the district’s most cost-saving tools. With a camera mounted to the bottom of the flying device, field agents will have a bird’s eye view of mosquito breeding grounds and better range at killing disease-carrying insects.

Given how many old health problems have returned to this country with a vengeance, finding a way to kill disease carriers without decimating native life or harming human health is a much higher priority than lifestyle “diseases” that have been the focus of public health bureaucrats for too long. Just ask America’s most recent chikugunya victim…Lindsay Lohan!

[Featured Image: From Florida Sun-Sentinel video]


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Bring back DDT.

    clintack in reply to Sanddog. | January 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Yep. Better the unintended consequences we already know.

      Valerie in reply to clintack. | January 27, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Targeted, short-term use, to eliminate diseased populations can work wonders, and minimize environmental consequences.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Sanddog. | January 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    The GM mosquitoes are opposed by the same types of people who stopped the use of DDT. The abolition of DDT resulted in the deaths of millions of people, and here the delay in the deployment of effective counter-measures to non-native biting insects may also take its toll on the human population in sickness and suffering. Environmentalists don’t care about people.

Well, it is probably easier than castrating the little fellas but, if they were Republican mosquitos, there would be no need for either procedure.

“Thanks to climate change…”

Is there anything it cannot do?

    Paul in reply to Barry. | January 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I know, it’s truly amazing isn’t it?. Before Climate Change (TM), the Florida climate was downright inhospitable to mosquitoes.

We released MILLIONS of RADIOACTIVE flys…!!! Run, run, for the love of gawd…!!!


One of the most successful eradication programs EVAH, and you probably never heard of it.

Keep your panties unbunched, folks.

    Valerie in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Call ’em “sterile” and all of a sudden, it’s a whole new game.

    There is a big difference between irradiated and radioactive.

    gasper in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I was thinking of this when I read your post. I saw a couple of cases of screw worm in the late 60’s. Not a pretty site. And people were not immune from them.

    rabidfox in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Looks like the screw worm females only copulate once and retain the males sperm for the rest of their lives. Massive sterilization of males would be very effective under these conditions — but… I get the impression that mosquitoes breed and lay eggs almost constantly during the summer so I don’t think that this approach will work well for mosquitoes.

so instead of stopping the infected people from entering the country we genetically modify something to kill the carrier that spreads the disease by biting these infected people.
makes sense to me ….yup

Malaria was endemic in Florida until the 1940s. Now it’s quite rare, and almost every case seen was acquired outside the U.S. As long as we keep up the basic public health measures that saw endemic Malaria (which is carried by not one but 14 types of Mosquitos) wiped out, I don’t see why we should believe that other mosquito-borne illnesses are going to gain a toehold here.

Of course, we could always blame Climate Change(TM).

F**k dem skeeters – what about de bo-constrictors and andycondas in de Ebberglades?

For those who read ‘genetically modified’ and fear it, if you own a purebred dog, cat, horse, etc., you own a genetically modified animal. Modern science has shortened the process, but it’s been going on for millenia.

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 27, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Well…that and virtually everything we eat or wear, whether plant or animal.

    You really would not like “unmodified” chicken.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I’ve read they used to modify plants by exposing seed to radiation, randomly altering/damaging the DNA and then growing the plant to see if they liked the “mutant”. That was considered “natural”. Now science can pick and choose gene strands, but they do get some more interesting crosses than randomness ever yielded.

    Little known fact … Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was based on a true story of those early “organic” farmers.

      Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Not intending the slightest insult, but you DO know we live in a world where we are constantly “irradiated”?

      It’s almost like we were created to deal with it…even thrive.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

        sure, and flying in plane gives us a larger dosage. They gave a large enough dosage to the seeds to alter the DNA, and get mutated plants. That is not normal.

        AND what most people don’t get is being “irradiated” … exposed to radiation (X-ray, nuclear explosion) is not the same as being contaminated, where radioactive particles stick in the thyroid for example, or when they put the radioactive “seeds” in to treat for cancer.

          Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

          Actually, if I remember my genetics correctly ONE of the environmental factors that cause mutations…which, it must be remembered are things that make us MORE survivable…is radiation.

          Midwest Rhino in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 9:24 pm

          Mutations can occur without high levels of radiation, or even without low ones I think. But the high levels cause a lot of changes, that’s why they do it for plants but not animals.

          There are some that think certain levels of “radiation” is healing, beyond what we get normally. A specialist I read during Fukushima told me about it, though it is not mainstream. “The hormetic dose response represents a paradigm shift in the concept of the dose response throughout biological science.” … It’s an interesting field, not sure if it is real or witch doctor stuff.

          The “Linear No Threshold” hypothesis, used in
          all radiation protection practices, assumes that all doses, no matter how low, increase risk. However, in human and other mammalian cells, low doses of low LET radiation such as gamma and X-rays induce an adaptive response that protects
          against both radiation-induced and spontaneous risk.

          Low doses enhance the repair of broken chromosomes in human cells.

          “Hormesis is an adaptive response of living organisms to low levels of chemical, biological or radiological stress or damage – a modest overcompensation to a disruption – resulting in improved fitness. Observations of this reproducible phenomen (low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition) have been widely reported in the scientific biomedical literature since the 1880’s, and form the basis for all immunology treatment….”

buckeyeminuteman | January 27, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Those orange, stinky Asian lady beetles, Japanese beetles, Norway rats, Russian thistle, Africanized honey bees, kudzu, Burmese pythons, feral hogs, zebra mussels, emerald ash borer, jumping Asian carp, etc. Does anybody see a trend here???

Insects are particularly dangerous to toy with.

They have a short lifespan and humongous reproductive capacity. That means that whatever you release may become quite a different bug over generations.

As to author, think of the less popular movie “Mimic” instead of “Jurassic Park”

    platypus in reply to healthguyfsu. | January 27, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    The first horror movie I ever saw was “Them” in a movie theater in 1953. I highly recommend it as an example of mass speculation about the effects of radiation.

    I was five years old. No, I wasn’t traumatized – just intrigued.

Midwest Rhino | January 27, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I love my GMO corn and soybeans, but don’t understand the science well enough to judge these altered mosquitoes.

Oxitec should still do more to show that the synthetic DNA causes no harm when transferred into humans by its mosquitoes, said Guy Reeves, a molecular geneticist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute.

We eat the corn, but the bugs eat us. Some females get mixed in, so some of the GMO DNA proteins will enter human bloodstreams. Odds are very low it would combine with human DNA to somehow make mutants, but low times a billion means some change might occur.

We are confident of the safety of our mosquito, as there’s no mechanism for any adverse effect on human health. The proteins are non-toxic and non-allergenic …

That makes sense sorta afaik … but certainly it is much different than digesting dead GMO corn DNA, that can mostly be grown in a field where it won’t fly away (pollen might drift a little). Some altered mosquito proteins would enter human bloodstreams, so better testing of just what that might do, needs to be done by an independent lab.

But on these real science issues, the EPA and FDA are still pretty good I think. But it would only reduce the target population, so the control program would be ongoing, and perhaps not the cheapest or most effective route.

    Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Mosquitoes have been injecting bovine DNA into us for centuries.

    Try using that excuse on Mrs. Rhino next time you are “horny”…

Henry Hawkins | January 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

“But on these real science issues, the EPA and FDA are still pretty good I think.”

Any science-based agency so thoroughly politicized as the EPA and FDA cannot be trusted for objective science. In fact, your money grows only if you bet on decidedly subjective, politically spun science from either. All they need is a political reason in order to start massaging the facts.

Mosquitoes already bite. Have much mosquito DNA does the average person acquire?

Well, um, you see, it’s, uh…

Zero. The answer is zero. Genetic transfer doesn’t work that way.


Well, no. The whole point of the modification is that it KILLS OFFSPRING. Wipes out whole generations. Total fatality rate.

But people hear “genetic engineering” immediately think “OMG LIKE JURASSIC PARK RAPTORS WILL KILL US ALL”

    Ragspierre in reply to JWB. | January 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    I read a lil’ squib that said a majority of Americans are in favor of labeling all food “containing DNA”.


    As a lifelong raptorphobic, I’m feeling a little bit microaggressed by your mockery here.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to JWB. | January 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Well, the “outside observers” disagree with you, from one of the above links:

    Oxitec said only non-biting males would be released, and that even if humans were somehow bitten, no genetically modified DNA would enter their bloodstream.

    Neither claim is entirely true, outside observers say.

    “What Oxitec is trying to spin is that it’s highly improbable that there will be negative consequences of this foreign DNA entering someone that’s bitten by an Oxitec mosquito,” said Lounibos. “I’m on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there’s no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that’s kind of a gray matter.

    Your hyperventilating about flying reptiles applies to some of the crazed fear of GMOs perhaps, but there are other considerations. They even tested this issue on their lab animals they say, but it doesn’t seem adequate.

    As Ragspierre said, mosquitoes have transferred various things to our blood for centuries … of course some of those things have been bad, others we’ve adapted to. But this is some new stuff, or transmitted in a new way. I don’t understand the whole blood/brain barrier thing either, so am mostly depending on what these real scientists have stated.

    And its not 100% mortality rate. But if any resistance was ever attained, it would only make it resistant to these genetics, it wouldn’t make them super-mosquitoes.

      Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      As Ragspierre said, mosquitoes have transferred various things to our blood for centuries…

      and, generally, our happy immune systems identify them and kill them. There are a few exceptions like Malaria, but those are HUGELY different.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Sure, in time we “evolved” to kill almost all comers, but there are still many that kill us. We carried immunity and disease to the New World and killed off many natives that had not adapted to our little surprises.

        So this gene splicing makes for some new situations, new response in our blood to these injected “protein strands” … which they say they’ve tested on some animals. But I don’t think it was really human testing. Odds are it is fine, but agree with the scientist that thinks it should be examined by a third party lab.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | January 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        Whatever is injected, I think it is probably not exactly “alive”, like a virus or bacteria. So it would have to do something else pretty weird, and the dose would be small.

        But maybe as an altered mosquito host to these other diseases, it would alter how those other virus or bacteria respond, perhaps in a new way that would bypass our normal immunity.

        But that’s what the scientists are for …. heh

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 27, 2015 at 9:08 pm

          They are killing the skeeters by inducing a genetic mutation that negates reproduction. Any DNA strand contains a recipe for reproduction, of a new skeeter in this case. You screw up the recipe in the right way to stop reproduction. That can be done any of three basic ways. You can add new genetic code that screws up the recipe for reproduction of a new skeeter (called insertion for googlers). You can get the same result by removing part of the genetic code too, causing a similar recipe disruption by a different means (called deletion). The third way involves chemicals or radiation which alter the base chemicals of DNA so it no longer performs normally, erasing the ability to reproduce (called substitution).

          Whatever results cannot alter human DNA should an affected, neutered skeeter bite you. No new genetic code gets added to or removed to the bitten human’s DNA, and a skeeter bite and what might be passed provides no mechanism for harming human DNA chemically or by radiation.

          Finally! My science degree comes in handy! Bo knows science!

          But velociraptors, Henry! VELOCIRAPTORS!

          /moves pillow & blankets into safe room for the night

          Midwest Rhino in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 28, 2015 at 9:11 am

          Thanks Henry …

          In time some mosquito would mutate to get around the killer genes, mate with the killer male, and we’d get populations of mosquitoes with the new genetics. I think that is the issue that has to be tested more … not flying mosquitoman “mechanisms”. Probably mutant survivor mosquitoes are still safe, despite the scary herpes gene sequence that is introduced with intention to kill mosquitoes. But there are many unintended consequences, which is why these things go through so much testing, normally.

          My experience is a little different, I plant soybeans for example, with “traits” genetically introduced that will kill worms (not earthworms) that eat it. I plant 10% “refuge”, a place where normal worms survive to mate with that one in a billion worm that mutates to survive. This way that survivor is unlikely to find another lonely survivor, and make love and start their new superworm family.

          I don’t know enough about this somewhat different situation, but it seems there are reasons these two geneticists in that article thought it would be advisable to do more thorough testing. They’ve already used the approach on human populations but that is not really testing, except they haven’t seen MosquitoMan yet.

          We will get flying raptors soon enough tho … be afraid Amy 🙂

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 28, 2015 at 11:49 am

          “In time some mosquito would mutate to get around the killer genes, mate with the killer male, and we’d get populations of mosquitoes with the new genetics.”

          The chances of that are infinitesimally small – but not impossible. However, those “new genetics” are random substitutions in the new skeeter’s DNA that would produce any manner and number of different mutations, 99.99% of which would not be beneficent. In other words, 99.99% of an already infinitesimally small number would die or never begin life in the first place. And if new skeeters got through that anyway, they would almost certainly be unable to breed because each would have different mutations. They’d essentially be new species of skeeter with no matching skeeter with which to breed.

          I have to stop all this sex talk now.

          Midwest Rhino in reply to Midwest Rhino. | January 29, 2015 at 2:57 pm

          Only the genetics that get around the killer GMO mosquito need to be passed on, and that is all that needs to mutate. High odds sure, that is why I said billions … or trillions. Each time a resistant female shows up, it could mate with a killer GMO mosquito and selectively breed for more resistance.

          It took 10-15 years with quadrillion tries for glyphosate resistant weeds to appear. Anyway … it is probably safe … famous last words. ha

Is everybody on this thread doing the doofuss thing today?

Seriously, stop letting the leftists steal the language and grammar. They are on a stealth campaign to make gene splicing DNA equivalent to GMO. This is so that they can ridicule people who use the term GMO as a shortcut for recombinant DNA using naturally impossible DNA snippets to achieve certain results. Like putting bacteria DNA into an animal’s DNA. Or the idiots that made Roundup Ready wheat. Now we have Roundup weeds. Impossible to see that coming.

Some of us think that when you set out to create a freak, every once in awhile you create more than the freak you desire. Also, these crony capitalists who finance the food supply part of this are afraid to risk anything so they get thug politicians to immunize them with liability cap legislation. But they don’t share the profits with the government. Plus, they lie. They said years ago they would never allow Starlite corn to be introduced into the food supply. Now it’s invaded third world food chains.

Anybody with any sense of prepper should have a stock of legacy/heritage seeds – corn; wheat; beans of various types; green vegetables of all types; etc. The neat thing about seeds is that they are designed to be patient.

Let’s reject the Alinsky tactic of slopping the language.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to platypus. | January 27, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    “Now we have Roundup weeds.”

    So you kill them (glyphosate resistant weeds) in other ways, like they did before Round Up. It’s always been a good idea to use a combination of sprays anyway.

    I’ve never heard anyone ridiculed for using “GMO”.

I’m curious as to how many years will be needed for this approach to become effective. What I’m getting at is that there is still a population of untreated males in the wild which will breed with females also. Won’t the wild population just regain its number unless this program is repeated over and over for a long time?

    Midwest Rhino in reply to rabidfox. | January 28, 2015 at 9:21 am

    They said it requires ongoing introduction of the killer mosquitoes, but new approaches are always welcome (except by some “greenies”), as immunity is built to old ones. On my grapes there are requirements about not using certain sprays too often, to avoid “breeding resistance”.

    Same with DDT or Round-Up … too much usage of any one will breed resistance, and the “multi-pronged” attack works much better.