Overlooking potential public health risks, lingering scientific questions, and deficient public data, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) approved the extension of Oxitec’s two-year field trial on Wednesday, which includes releasing several billion more genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes into the Florida Keys — one of Florida’s most ecologically sensitive areas.
FDACS’ approval comes on the heels of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granting the British biotechnology company Oxitec a two-year extension for its Experimental Use Permit for the release of a GE version of the species Aedes aegypti across Monroe County, Florida.
“FDACS should have required Oxitec to cease claiming as ‘confidential business information’ their data on the human health and environmental effects of the release of the mosquitoes,” said Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director at Center for Food Safety. “In Spain, when Oxitec withheld the data, the Spanish government told Oxitec to make public the health and environmental safety effects of their genetically engineered insect. Florida should have done the same. Moreover, FDACS should not have allowed a second major release without making public the data from the first trial and having it reviewed by unbiased scientists in the field.”
FDACS’ approval came despite unresolved public health and environmental concerns raised by scientists, public health experts and environmental groups about potential impacts of the release. The data from Florida’s 2021 field trial release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys still has not been made public or reviewed by independent scientists.