Comment period extended on GE mosquito proposal

By Stephen Davies

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WASHINGTON, April 7, 2016 - The Food and Drug Administration is extending the comment period on its proposal to allow an experimental release of gene-edited mosquitoes in Florida to combat the Zika virus. The new comment deadline is May 13.

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FDA had received requests to extend the deadline from Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and GMO Free USA.

The male mosquitoes that would be released by Oxitec Ltd. in the Florida Keys have two new genes - a color marker and a “self-limiting” pest control gene that causes offspring to die.

The species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is known to transmit potentially debilitating human viral diseases, including Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya and has been found in some U.S. states, but is most prevalent in the South,” FDA said. “Open field trials of the OX513A genetically engineered mosquito have been conducted in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and Malaysia.”

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Former Agriculture Secretary John Block and molecular geneticist Nina Fedoroff endorsed the approach in New York Times Wednesday.

“The released male mosquitoes have no effect on people because males don't bite,” they wrote. “While we might wait years for a Zika vaccine, the genetically modified mosquito is tested, scalable and ready to go.”

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