Key West residents oppose plan to release GM mosquitoes to fight dengue fever

Nearly 100,000 people have joined an online campaign against a plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue fever in the Florida Keys.

The British biotech company Oxford Insect Technologies, known as Oxitec, hopes to release genetically altered male Aeges aegypti mosquitoes into the Keys to breed with wild females. Any offspring would possess a gene that would cause them to die before reaching adulthood, helping to eliminate the dengue-spreading population over generations, according to

Mila de Mier, a Key West resident, launched a petition drive on asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to deny Oxitec's application authorizing the release.

"As a community we've already said we don't want these mosquitoes in our backyards, but Oxitec isn't listening," de Mier said, reports.

De Mier and other Key West residents want to see more definitive studies on how the genetically modified mosquitoes could affect humans and the environment.

"Nearly all experiments with genetically-modified crops have eventually resulted in unintended consequences: super weeds more resistant to herbicides, mutated and resistant insects and collateral damage to ecosystems," de Mier's petition says, reports.

Michael Doyle, the executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, is tasked with keeping the Aeges aegypti population from spreading dengue in the Keys. The illness recently resurfaced in the area after an absence of more than 60 years.

"We are in a weird spot, because we want to get rid of dengue and not make headlines," Doyle said, reports. "Then come GM mosquitoes."