The following are questions that were directed toward FKMCD around the proposed GM Mosquito trial. For answers to questions specifically about the technology of the Oxitec GM Mosquito and Oxitec’s Proposed trial, please visit here.
What pesticides, in what quantities, are currently being used to treat Aedes aegypti mosquitoes?
In 2014, the following abatement materials and amounts were used to combat Aedes aegypti throughout the Keys:
• Methoprene: 113 lbs./22.8 acres
• Temephos: 89 lbs./8.9 acres
• Sumethrin/Prallethrin: 1 gal./388 acres
• Spinosad: 17,790 tablets/41 acres
• Bti: 7,425 lbs./52,000 acres
What insecticides do you anticipate being able to reduce or eliminate because of this program?
The vast majority of the insecticides listed above are used to combat Aedes aegypti in Key West. Thus, assuming that FKMCD achieves 90% or higher reduction in Aedes aegypti as found so far in Brazil and Panama, nearly all of the insecticides use in Key West would be reduced. FKMCD would still continue to treat water holding containers in yards with small amounts of larvicide (i.e. Bti). Occasional use of an adulticide would be needed if there was a surge in saltmarsh mosquitoes (this is rare nowadays due to our aggressive larviciding program)
Which of these – and by what percentages – will presumably be reduced by introducing GM mosquitoes?
Assuming that FKMCD achieved 90% or higher reduction, there would be a 100% reduction in Vectobac WDG (a larvicide with active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti)) and an 80% reduction in Duet (a dual-action adulticide with active ingredients Sumethrin and Prallethrin).
What are the long run ecological consequences of these mosquitoes? What impact does the genetically modified mosquito have on the environment? Do you know what effect this has on birds?
Male mosquitoes that are released will die whether they mate or not. Progeny of those male mosquitoes will inherit a lethal gene that will kill them before they mature into adults. The effect on the environment will be negligible as well. Immature stages of Aedes aegypti are found most often in artificial containers such as tires, discarded plastic food containers, uncovered 5 gallon buckets, and trivets under flower pots; these are the sites where female Aedes aegypti prefer to lay their eggs. These containers do not provide habitat for many other organisms. Effects on birds should be minimal as well. Male mosquitoes do not take blood meals, so they cannot bite birds. Female Aedes aegypti rarely bite birds. Birds will eat some species of mosquitoes, especially when they occur in large numbers. The spatial distribution of Aedes aegypti makes it unlikely that there is much predation in nature.
Will the use of GE mosquitoes result in a reduction of spraying and/or changes to other mosquito control methods?
Yes. Traditionally, the only successful control technique for Aedes aegypti has been chemical use. DDT was first used around 1950 and resulted in complete eradication of this species from 16 countries. Since then, there have been 100’s of attempts at control. The vast majority were unsuccessful. There has been some short-term success with “dumping and draining” combined with chemical use, but these successes have been very short-term … a few years at best.
FKMCD expects that chemical use would be reduced as the Ae. aegypti population declined. If FKMCD had reductions of 80% or more, FKMCD would rarely need to spray for Ae. aegypti. On the rare occasion, such as a surge in Ae. Aegypti, we would spray in isolated areas until GM releases in that area pushed the population back down.
Has FKMCD considered, other control methods, like the Wolbachia bacteria technique that effectively immunized the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from Dengue?
Recent publications show the effectiveness of this technique continued over a 3-year monitoring program where the bacteria was passed from generation to generation (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/engineering-mosquitoes-to-stop-disease/379247/2)
Many other control methods have been considered and even tested in the Keys to combat Aedes aegypti. These include, aerial larviciding with Bti, lethal ovicups, sticky ovicups, and Wolbachia. Currently, Wolbachia is still in the testing phase in the United States.
Does the FKMCD have a plan in place to monitor the movement of these mosquitoes?
We have a robust surveillance program for Ae. aegypti and we’ve been extensively monitoring the population since 2010 with various methods that survey for eggs, larvae, and adults. What is useful and unique about the Oxitec GM mosquitoes is that they have a fluorescent gene that allows us to monitor their movement throughout the Keys.
How much will this experiment cost?
Oxitec is covering the vast majority of the experimental costs. FKMCD has dedicated very little financially thus far (approx. less than $10,000 in direct expenses). However, FKMCD is planning to dedicate approximately 2.5 – 3 Field Inspectors to the experiment for the 6-12 months that we expect the trial to last. That is worth approximately $100,000 – $200,000 in time and overhead. Of course, there has also been considerable administrative time to work with education and outreach, renovations, and safety/QA over the last 4 years. FKMCD explores many new techniques for mosquito control and dedicates time and money commensurate with expected gain/success of the various experiments
How much would it cost if the FKMCD moves forward with this technology and has to release thousands or millions of genetically modified mosquitoes on a regular basis?
FKMCD has been very clear that this technique must cost no more than our current chemical-intensive methods. It must also be more effective than our current methods.
Currently, FKMCD spends approximately 1.1 Million dollars a year to combat Ae. aegypti in the Key West area to achieve an estimated 50% reduction of the “normal” Ae. aegypti population.
How does the FKMCD justify the cost of this mosquito program to prevent dengue fever when there haven’t been any cases of the illness since 2009?
The proposed Oxitec GM Mosquito Project is a trial – FKMCD has not established this as part of the mosquito control program at this time. FKMCD will be assisting with this trial if it receives approval from the regulatory agency. FKMCD is reviewing this technology as another potential tool to combat mosquitoes. If the trial is approved, FKMCD will review the results of the trial in terms of effectiveness and cost and will then determine if it is a viable addition to our control program.
How will the FKMCD notify the community about when and where the trial release will happen?
FKMCD will notify the community through all the media outlets in the Keys in the form of press releases and interviews, announcements and updates on our social media pages and our website, and via email to all addresses collected from Town Hall Meetings and requests for information.
Who will be legally and financially liable if something goes wrong?
Oxitec, Ltd. would be legally and financially responsible.
If I own my land and do not give permission to have GM mosquitoes released on my property – how do you have the right to use my property?
The GM mosquitoes, if approved, will be released on public land not private property. Just as current mosquito control abatement products can drift, male GM mosquitoes in search of female wild mosquitoes may come onto private property.