Almost like the plot of a dystopian horror movie a UK biotech company, called Oxitec, would like to release genetically engineered mosquitos in the Florida Keys. I mean tell me that you can’t envision how this movie (if it were one) would unfold. In an act of man’s hubris that he is the master of nature and can thus use his mastery to make life better for everyone through engineering disease out of mosquitos. The mosquitos are released and appear to succeed in what they are engineered for until something goes horribly wrong (cue dramatic music). There would be some sort of mutation which causes some sort of catastrophe – I’m thinking those bitten by the mutated mosquitos turn into zombies – the Army is called in, there would be a bunch of zombie horror carnage, and an attempt to eliminate the mosquitos appears to succeed. As the movie closes the camera zooms in on mosquito larvae growing is some standing water, thus setting up the potential for sequels. It basically writes itself, doesn’t it? Just invite me to the premier, that’s all I ask.
Well, despite the many internet themed zombie apocalypse stuff that made its rounds after a Miami Florida man (The Keys are in Florida too – coincidence?) gnawing the face off of another man, as well as similar gruesome events, I feel pretty safe in saying that I don’t think these mosquitos will cause people to turn into zombies, nor will any other bad thing happen should someone get bitten by one of these genetically engineered mosquitos. According to the company the mosquitos that would be released are all males, which do not bite, and have been genetically neutered, so they cannot reproduce. These now flying eunuchs are meant to bring a dramatic reduction in the mosquito population (because there can’t be any mosquito hanky panky) and are the particular species that is the carrier of dengue fever, which there have been some cases of in the Keys. The company also claims that they have successfully released these mutant mosquitos in the Cayman Islands three years ago, but despite all of those claims residents of the Keys want none of it.
About 90,000 people have signed a petition saying that they do not want these mosquitos released and asking the FDA to not permit Oxitec’s mosquito release. There are concerns over what kind of impact releasing these modified insects into the ecosystem will have, and I must say that science doesn’t exactly have a very good track record with genetically enhanced insects – the killer bee for example. So, the residents of the Keys simply want more scientific proof that these mosquitos are in fact safe, and I think that is a fair request. To be equally fair, Oxitec has stated that the decision to release or not release is completely up to the local governments, so they are not out there pushing for this – at least not overtly.
Now, say what you will about corporations, and going back to the movie script, you can be pretty sure that behind closed doors there are Oxitec officials trying to influence state and federal government officials to get their little flying castrati released. Why? Because they didn’t spend money to engineer these little pests to just hang out with them in their labs, they need them to be released because it means money for them. So, yeah it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if either the state or federal government decides to supersede the wishes of the locals and the local governments, all in the name (and in name only) of public safety; I mean they have to prevent the spread of dengue fever, of which there were no reported cases in 2011; and these mosquitos will be released. While I don’t think there will be a mutation that will spawn a zombie apocalypse, but it will be zombie politicians who will decide for the residents of the Keys what is best for them, and if there is one thing that we all know about zombies of any type, they want to eat our brains and are relentless in their pursuit to turn us into them; just a little food for thought there. Don’t let a zombie politician bite you, because you will forever be beholden to them once they sink their teeth into you. Maybe the residents of the Florida Keys should be more concerned with that bite and not of the mosquitos?