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US: Majority of Key Haven survey respondents oppose GMO mosquito test

no_consent_signBy NANCY KLINGENER From WLRN Miami, South Florida

A survey of households in Key Haven, the neighborhood proposed for the first U.S. trial of genetically modified mosquitoes, found a majority of respondents opposed to the test.

Researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore sent surveys to every household in the neighborhood.

About 22 percent responded. Of those, a majority — 58 percent — were opposed or strongly opposed to the trial.

Oxitec wants to release its “self-limiting” version of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Key Haven. The mosquito is modified so that it dies without access to tetracycline. The plan is to release genetically modified males that would mate with wild females and produce larvae that die before they can sting people and transmit diseases.

The aedes aegypti mosquito can carry dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus. Key West had a dengue outbreak in 2009-2010 and a case was confirmed on the island last week. There had been no cases of Zika in the Florida Keys as of Tuesday.

For those in the Johns Hopkins survey who opposed  the test the most frequent reason was concern about public safety with GMO mosquitoes present.

Among those who were neutral or supported the trial, the most common reason  was to reduce the use of pesticides.

The FDA has issued a preliminary finding of no significant impact for Oxitec’s proposal. Public comment on that finding closed last month.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board has decided to let residents of the Keys vote on the proposed trial on the August ballot. Still undecided: whether the vote will be binding or not on the district, which must approve the release of genetically modified mosquitoes.

IMAGE: A majority of Key Haven residents who responded to a survey were opposed to a test of genetically modified mosquitoes. NANCY KLINGENER / WLRN

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