The EPA approved Oxitec’s mosquitoes for release this spring. Some scientists and locals want to halt the deployment.
Thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes have begun to be released in Florida this week.
Florida’s native mosquitoes are growing resistant to common forms of control, such as insecticide, and Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes are one of the most controversial methods being explored. The firm has been trying to have its GM mosquitos released experimentally in the Keys since 2011, but they have met resistance from locals and scientists alike.
Some locals say they fear being guinea pigs. Critics say they are concerned about the possible effects GM mosquitoes could have on human health and the environment.
A small, vocal group of Florida Key residents have fought the release of what they call "mutant mosquitoes" since the project was announced -- and they are incensed.
"Our opposition has been long and strong," said Barry Wray, the executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition. "We live here, this our home, and they're forcing this down people's throats."
Activists warn of possible damage to ecosystems and the potential for the creation of hybrids, mosquitoes which later will withstand insecticides.
Oxitec is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this mosquito genetic engineering project. Bill & Melinda Gates is even said to have disbursed funds of up to 4.1 million US dollars for this project.