Federal officials have approved the use of genetically modified mosquitoes in the fight against the Zika virus, despite a deluge of complaints.
The Food and Drug Administration said a clinical trial introducing genetically engineered mosquitoes into Florida to fight Zika could move forward, saying the trial would not have "significant impacts on the environment." The decision Friday comes despite more than 2,000 mostly negative comments from people who are concerned about the environmental impact of the genetically modified mosquitoes.
The company behind the mosquitoes plans to start the trial in an area of Key West by the end of the year. The FDA still needs to approve the use of the mosquitoes after the conclusion of the trial, which could take up to nine months, according to the U.K.-based Oxitec, which is making the mosquitoes.
Oxitec faces other hurdles before the trial can start. In November, Key West voters will decide on whether the trial should go forward in a non-binding referendum.
The genetically modified mosquitoes are males that would mate with females. The female's offspring don't reach adulthood, hence reducing the breeding of the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which spreads the Zika virus.
Oxitec would sell the mosquitoes to a locality to strategically deploy the mosquitoes.
The request to conduct the trial generated more than 2,600 comments, most of them negative. People were concerned about the environmental impact of the mosquitoes and believed Oxitec's trial poses more questions than answers.
The nonprofit Florida Keys Environmental Coalition commented that the request to use mosquitoes requires "a deeper scrutiny and rigor, with input from a broad array of objective viewpoints and scientific contributors to establish a proper vetting solution."
Health officials have found 15 cases of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika in the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.