Village hears from experts as genetic-mosquito release experiment nears.

J. McCarthy,  KEYSWEEKLY,  2021.

On March 18, Islamorada Village Council heard from several independent scientists who discussed information and issues behind the genetically modified mosquitoes for population and disease suppression. The scientists collectively said they’re neither for nor against the release. A representative from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and one from Oxitec responded following the presentation. Fred Gould, professor of North Carolina State’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, briefly explained the strain of mosquitoes (OX5034) set for release. He said he was involved with another strain of genetically modified mosquitoes in development in 2010 when a field case study was conducted in Mexico. “In the laboratory, it turned out the male mosquitoes flew fine and mated well. But in the real environment, they weren’t as strong as the wild type mosquitoes and they basically had 3% of the matings. Instead of having half the matings, they had very few,” he said. Gould went on to say that this is also shown in work by Oxitec in Brazil, where it turns out that the genetic mosquitoes “are not very fit.” “It would take 30 of them, at least, to be equal to an individual wild type in terms of how many matings you have,” he said. “When you’re thinking about that, you have to recognize you have to release a lot of mosquitoes in order to have any activity. I just want to bring that home to you that it goes up and down as to what that percent fitness is, and we don’t know what that’ll look like in Florida. “Will it work? I want to say it might work just fine,” he continued. “There’s a chance that they’ll be doing these releases and it won’t be a simple thing.”

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