Your Neighbors Get to Vote on How Much Zika Risk You Have to Take

It's democratic, so what could possibly be wrong with that?


U. Florida

Zika virus infections caused by local mosquito bites has now spread to three Florida counties. So far there are only 43 cases. The disease could become much more widespread if the Sunshine State gets whacked by a tropical storm. The disease is chiefly transmitted via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and as it happens there is a technology available that has been shown to reduce the populations of that vermin by more than 90 percent. You might think that folks menaced by Zika (or any other mosquito-borne disease) would embrace such a technology, but you would be wrong. Why?

Because the technology consists of male mosquitoes that are genetically modified to pass along a lethal gene to their progeny. Whisper the words "genetically modified" and some GMO-phobic folks flee into the night screaming something about protecting their precious bodily fluids—and so it has been in Key Haven, Florida.

Several years ago, the elected Mosquito Control Board of Key West invited Oxitec, the company that grows the Friendly Mosquitos™, to release them in the Key Haven section of Key West to see if they would reduce the population of mosquitoes then-spreading dengue fever. Some GMO-phobic residents managed to delay the plan by entangling it FDA redtape. However, the FDA regulators earlier this month finally issued a safety finding of "no significant impact," essentially greenlighting the release.

Now Florida Keys GMO-phobes are demanding that they get to vote on whether or not they can force their neighbors to endure a higher risk of being infected with the Zika virus. Well, since it's all democratic and so forth that means that no one is forcing anyone to do anything, right? The New York Times quotes Key Haven resident and GMO-phobe Ms. Jitka Olsak: "We are not going to be laboratory mice. Nature takes care of its own things."

Yeah, just like it did malaria, yellow fever, polio, smallpox, guinea worm ….