Key Haven residents vote against mosquito test


Residents of Key Haven voted decisively against a referendum to allow genetically modified mosquitoes to be released in a test to control the spread of Zika virus, while residents of Monroe County voted to approve the test.

The vote is non-binding and the district’s board of commissioners will have the final say on the test.

Key Haven had 419 residents, 65 percent, vote against the measure, while 224 people, or 35 percent, voted to approve the referendum. About 1,000 people live in the unincorporated community on Raccoon Key, an island about a mile east of Key West.

Monroe County voters also weighed in on the referendum with the majority favoring the test. County residents recorded 23,218, or 58 percent, for the test and 16,912, or 42 percent, against the measure.

Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease linked to devastating birth defects, is expanding throughout Central and South America and creeping toward the U.S.

The British biotech company Oxitec planned to release three million male mosquitoes on Key Haven.

Key Haven was chosen because the mosquito species known as Aedes aegypti — the same kind that carries Zika — sparked a yearlong dengue fever outbreak in 2009 that infected at least 88 residents.

The proposed test angered many residents in the Florida Keys. They campaigned against the referendum saying they didn’t want to be guinea pigs for an experimental technology that could fly into their homes.

The modified insects — nearly all male — are created and bred in a lab with a genetic variant. When these GMO mosquitoes mate with females in the wild, up to 97 percent of their offspring can’t survive, according to Oxitec. If enough GMO mosquitoes are released and mate, the population eventually declines.

Mila De Mier, a real estate agent and single mother of three boys who lives a few miles from Key Haven, led the protest. Among her biggest concerns are the lack of long-term research on the mosquitoes, the fact that not all the offspring die immediately and concerns that the mosquitoes could permanently affect the local environment.

Last year she launched a petition that has garnered national coverage and more than 168,000 signatures, more than double the 75,000 people who live in the Florida Keys.

Terry Roen

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

One comment

  • Eduardo

    November 16, 2016 at 8:15 am

    I’m from Brazil, where those mosquitoes were released and then we had record Dengue cases, not to mention a possible Zika mutation which turned it much more dangerous

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn