Target: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert M. Califf M.D.
Goal: Protect citizens and the environment from the unpredictable effects of releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes.
Releasing millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes into a highly populated island environment is incredibly risky, but this is exactly what the Oxitec corporation plans to do. As part of a strategy approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Oxitec will be unleashing a horde of genetically engineered mosquitoes into the Florida Keys.
The scheme is aimed at reducing the number of mosquitoes in these areas that may currently carry dangerous, infectious diseases such as dengue and zika. Although it is important to work toward attacking illnesses spread by mosquitoes, doing so through the release of a genetically engineered species may have unforeseen effects on the environment. Ecosystems are complex, dynamic networks that may respond in unpredictable ways to new elements. With these concerns in mind, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf M.D. should not approve this experiment.
Though Oxitec and the FDA claim that this plan will not bring any negative consequences to the Florida Keys’ ecosystem, a number of independent scientists have already expressed concern about the fallout from genetically engineered mosquitoes. Moreover, Oxitec has failed to produce any data that shows that releasing these experimental species may actually reduce the incidence of dengue, zika, or other mosquito-borne illnesses in humans.
Moving forward with this strategy without a thorough understanding of its potential risks and actual benefits is ultimately irresponsible. Once released into the environment, these genetically engineered mosquitoes cannot be recalled. They very well may reproduce in such a way that can cause unintended changes within the ecosystem of the Florida Keys.
More independent analysis and a stronger regulatory framework regarding genetically engineered species must be in place before we start turning our environment into an experimental playground for corporations. Until then, the FDA should move to protect citizens and the environment from the harm that genetically engineered species can cause. By signing the petition below, you will help urge FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf to reject the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
Dear Commissioner Robert M. Califf M.D.,
Oxitec’s proposal to release genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys is a dangerous one. The consequences of introducing these new elements into a delicate ecosystem are extremely difficult to predict. Moreover, Oxitec has failed to prove that unleashing this experimental species would actually achieve their stated goal of reducing incidences of mosquito-borne illnesses in humans. Simply put, the Food and Drug Administration should not approve such a risky plan.
Many independent scientists have expressed their concern for the potential harm that may be caused by genetically engineered species. Since they obviously cannot be recalled from the environment, it would be extremely difficult to ameliorate imbalances in the ecosystem that may be brought about through the reproduction of genetically engineered mosquitoes. If there is no evidence that releasing this species into the Florida Keys will actually reduce the incidence of infectious diseases such as dengue and zika in humans, then there is no reason to move forward with Oxitec’s plan.
Our ecosystems are not experimental laboratories for corporations. We should protect them, and ourselves, from hasty plans that may do much more harm than good. I urge you to reject the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim