There has been much conversation and angst about genetically modified Aedes aegypti being tested in the Lower Keys. The Key West City Commission passed a resolution against a trial release in the city until further studies are conducted. Now Key Haven residents will have an opportunity to vote on a trial release in their community. While not a binding vote, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board agreed to respect the outcome of the vote.
With the Zika virus at our doorstep, we are looking at several processes that would sterilize the male aegypti and do not involve genetic modification. One process involves irradiated sterile mosquitos, which was successful in almost eradicating the screw-worms; the other uses a bacteria, Wolbachia, to sterilize male aedes ageypti mosquitos.
We need new technology and tools, and the genetically modified mosquito may certainly be a usable future tool. Unfortunately, these new processes and technologies will not be available for the fight against Zika or dengue for several more years.
Our proven techniques, including community outreach programs and traditional door-to-door inspections credited with defeating the dengue outbreak of 2009 and 2010, should be the main focus at this time. The aerial larviciding over Key West is another innovative and effective tool we employ.
Any new techniques the Mosquito Control District adopts should provide a clear and accountable outcome that will reduce cost, improve public health and be harmonious with and non-threatening to the Keys ecosystems
I have an agenda item to return our domestic inspection staff to the full complement as in 2010. It will be discussed and voted on at our June 22 meeting at the Old City Hall on Greene Street in Key West starting at 5 p.m. I encourage attendance by anyone who wants to learn more about the district. I hope my fellow commissioners will be in support of increasing our staff. The addition of four more inspectors in Key West would have an annual property tax increase of approximately $4.50 (or a little over a penny — 1.23287 cents per day) additional for the average household in the Keys.
Lastly, if the Keys trial of genetic modified mosquitos is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and comes up for a vote, I am not at this time willing to cast a vote in its support.
Steve K. Smith, commissioner, Mosquito Control Board, Key West