Residents of the Florida Keys have been locked in a prolonged ideological and civic battle with the British company Oxitec for years now, as the company seeks to release genetically engineered mosquitoes in the otherwise pristine natural area.
While the mosquitoes have been engineered to combat disease, there are strong signs that previous trial runs were actually not successful, and that a stronger form of mosquito was actually created in the process, according to Yale professor Jeffrey Powell.
A vote is expected to be held tomorrow, August 18, during which the fate of the controversial lab engineered organisms and their release into the ecosystem could be decided.
If it swings in favor of the controversial technology, over 500 million of the lab created genetically engineered insects could be released into the Florida Keys, according to activist Barry Wray’s website StopGMM.com.
That amounts to about 175,000 per household, all in the name of a scientific experiment that local activists say has not been properly tested for safety and is not necessary, in an area that takes tremendous pride in the preservation of its pristine natural ecosystems and environment.
“It’s Very Concerning What We’re Dealing With Right Now”
With the vote looming on Tuesday, concerned citizens both locally and across the country are being asked to sign the petition against the mosquitoes, before they are released to be tested “in the fragile ecosystem of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary,” the petition, which still needs over 2,000 signatures to reach its goal as of the writing of this article, reads.
With time running low, Wray is rallying the troops to gain as many signatures and as much support as possible.
“It’s problematic…It’s very concerning what we’re dealing with right now,” he said. “We’re trying to motivate our community to be more vocal or energized.”
Wray said he’s hoping to get a large contingent of speakers out to the event as well.
“We would really like to get our point across that the community doesn’t want this,” he said.
While GM companies like Oxitec, which received a $4.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have plenty of time to devote to pushing the alleged safety and “benefits” of the lab created novel organisms, activists like Wray are forced to dig into the scientific objections head first, combating a multi-million dollar corporation at the grassroots level through pure elbow grease and determination.
Wray admitted it gets difficult fighting to keep the Keys safe from the GM organisms, but preserving the natural beauty and integrity of the ecosystem is worth fighting for, he and fellow activists believe.
“The company lies, the company obfuscates,” Wray said. “There’s nothing that the wouldn’t do to get (the GMO mosquitoes) tested and released here.”
Despite promises to the contrary, Wray says that emails within Oxitec in the company’s Cayman Research and Control Unit are damning, and “clearly point out that the entire experiment was a complete and utter failure.”
Wray Plans to Honor the Memory of Fallen Activist Who Drowned in Hotel Swimming Pool
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Wray and his fellow activists are planning to submit at least two petitions: one from the community at-large and supporters around the world, and another from an Key West area activist who won’t be able to make it to this year’s meeting: Mila de Mier, who tragically died face-down in a Washington, D.C. swimming pool on April 11, 2018.
Mier had been planning to deliver a petition signed by over 233,000 people against the GMO mosquitoes in Washington, D.C., and had been preparing to meet with senators and representatives.
“Sometimes you just got to do what you got to do,” she posted April 8 on her Facebook page prior to her trip. “EPA better be ready!!!”
In Mila de Mier’s memory, it’s expected that Wray will present the signatures tomorrow as part of a mountain of evidence, signatures and support in favor of a GMO mosquito-free Florida Keys.
Keeping the mosquitoes out of the keys has been tough sledding in the prior years, but this time, Wray has a mountain of evidence, support and signatures behind him.
“If we can I think it may be over forever, but I don’t know,” Wray said. “If we defeat them again I don’t think they get into the United States.”
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