Houston Set to Become Next Battleground for GMO Mosquitoes to “Fight Zika Virus”
-by Nick Meyer
The genetic engineering experiment has grown beyond food in the past few years to also include the development of genetically modified animals. But are these animals really being created for the good of the planet and mankind, or are they simply being used as a profitable “solution” to problems that have been blown out of proportion?
These and other questions are still being sorted out — with areas said to be infested with Zika virus carrying mosquitoes as the first major target.
Already in the Florida Keys, the GMO mosquito experiment from the British company Oxitec has been met with great controversy and resistance (the target neighborhood rejected their release and the company is looking for a new target area in the region while conducting field trials).
Now, the biggest city in Texas is said to be the next target (despite the fact that no actual cases of Zika have been recorded there).
Houston Area Next for GMO Mosquitoes?
According to multiple local news reports (and this article from the website Gizmodo.com), Houston area officials are in negotiations to potentially release the mosquitoes in Harris County, the third most populous county in the U.S., which could make the area the first to release GMO mosquitoes in the United States.
An environmental assessment must be carried out and submitted to the FDA before the plans can move forward, however, and if the Florida situation is any indication it could take years to complete. The assessment will be undertaken by the company that created them, however: Oxitec, which also is in the process of submitting an additional assessment in Florida. Critics decry the process and say that independentassessments (from organizations that don’t stand to benefit financially like Oxitec) are needed while arguing that the mosquitoes are not necessary or proven, and that the consequences could be farther reaching than can possibly be known.
In Houston, the Zika virus has had no documented cases of Zika, making the situation all the more confusing to GMO mosquito skeptics. The first cases in the state of Texas happened in December a few miles away from Cameron County near Mexico’s border.
The hot, humid summer in the area makes it a haven for mosquitoes, however, which has led local officials to seek out ways to fight the spread of the disease, theGizmodo.com article stated.
The company that makes them, Oxitec, has been known to throw its financial and political weight around, creating what was deemed to be a “phony non-profit” designed to push the GMO mosquitoes on locals in the Key West area, as one local blogger called it (decide for yourself by reading this article).
The mosquitoes have been engineered to include two copies of baby-mosquito killing genes, which override natural selection to make it almost certain that the offspring receive the killer gene from their fathers. Over time the local mosquito population would start to dwindle, according to the stated goal and also Oxitec’s own reports of field trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands.
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But the World Health Organization has said there is “an absence of data on epidemiological impact” caused by these mosquitoes.
For more information, check out the full article from Gizmodo.com by clicking on this link.