by Michael Welber…
By a wide margin, Key Haven residents oppose the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in their neighborhood. At its next board meeting, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, is likely to approve a contract with British company Oxitec, which breeds the mosquitoes. Mosquito Control plans to release the insects this spring if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves.
Over the past three months, a team of volunteers personally surveyed 283 households on the peninsula in the lower Keys and found a very different result from what Mosquito Control originally reported.
Of those homes, 74.9 percent said they did not support the GM mosquito release, 21.2 percent were in support, and 3.9 percent were either neutral or had no opinion. The result departs significantly from the survey by Mosquito Control that reported that nearly 60 percent favored the release.
Mosquito Control conducted what it described as an informal survey in 2014. They contacted 56 percent of all households or 249 residents. Of those surveyed, over half reported knowing nothing or very little about the technology of the potential release.
The sample size of the recent survey was 62.7 percent of all Key Haven households, the breadth of which exceeds Mosquito Control’s 2014 survey. The results were a complete reversal.
“We went to every single house and had to go back multiple times to ensure that we could speak to people who weren’t home the other times,” said Oliver Kofoid, one of the volunteers. “Not only did we discover that the majority of Key Haven residents oppose this experiment but some individuals also told us that Mosquito Control surveyors tried to convince them to be more sympathetic to the GM mosquito trial.”
“Mosquito Control has been reporting that Key Haven is in favor of this experiment. I do not believe this is the case and no one I know is in favor of the release. The initial survey conducted by the Mosquito Control District was in my opinion biased. The questions were posed in such a manner to influence a neutral or positive response. When I said I was opposed to the trial the Mosquito Control surveyor tried to influence my opinion and reviewed materials with me that were published by Oxitec in an attempt to get me to change my mind and give a positive response.” -Key Haven resident email to Michael Welber
People who have consistently opposed the genetically modified mosquito release feel that the original survey was biased and therefore its results were not truly representative of the Key Haven community. Many people who were questioned did not know about the District’s plans. In the last few months, however, the issue has been talked about extensively in the media and people are much more knowledgeable.
The next FKMCD board meeting takes place April 21 at 2 p.m. in Marathon at Mosquito Control’s headquarters. The board, at that time, is set to approve the Oxitec contract despite overwhelming opposition from Key Haven residents who will be directly affected by the release of these mosquitoes.