By Benjamin Flowers
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a report saying that the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to help fight the Zika virus is environmentally safe.
The FDA this week gave the British company Oxitec, Ltd. tentative approval to hold trials in the Florida Cayes, after ruling that the mosquitoes pose nol threat to the environment.FDA is still reviewing data provided by Oxitec, and will not release it’s final determination until the public has had the opportunity to respond, which is required by law. The deadline for comments is April 13.
Apart from having a florescent color, Oxitec’s mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti (OX513A), are unique because they have been modified to die before reaching maturity. The technique is expected toproduce dramatic reductions in the population of the aedes Egypti mosquito responsible for the Zika outbreak.
Oxitec’s Chief Executive Officer, Hadyn Parry, explained that since the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published it’s own information validating that the mosquitoes are safe, the company is hoping to roll out a full project sometime later this year.
“We already have a mosquito-raising facility in Marathon, Florida, so we would send the eggs from the United Kingdom and begin growing them,” he said.
Oxitec had conducted trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands, where they successfully reduced the population of the mosquito by 90 percent.
Dominica, however, refused to take part in the trials, saying that the answer would remain “no” until Oxitec could provide evidence that the mosquitoes are safe.
Dominica’s Minister of Health, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, explained that while the company has proven that the GMO mosquitoes could reduce the overall population of the Aedes egypti, no consideration has been given to the harm the GMO ‘s can cause to their surroundings.
The Zika virus is believed to be responsible for 574 cases of microcephaly, a birth defect which causes children to be born with abnormally small brains, in Brazil during the last 15 months.
While the virus has been confirmed in several Central American countries, Belize has still not had a confirmed case.