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Residents uneasy over genetically modified mosquitoes being released in Florida

Scientists say that by releasing millions of genetically modified male mosquitoes into the Florida Keys, they could slow down the spread of dengue and chikungunya, but area residents aren't very enthusiastic about the plan.

The male mosquitoes have been engineered by the British biotech firm Oxitec to produce offspring that quickly die off; if the female mating partners only produce these doomed larvae, there will be fewer mosquitos and fewer cases of the painful virusus they carry. "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told The Associated Press.

Mosquito controllers say they are running out of ways to kill the Aedes aegypti, which has evolved to resist several insecticides. Since the Keys haven't had a dengue outbreak in years or a chikungunya case ever, however, residents aren't quick to welcome the genetically modified mosquitoes. "If I knew that this was a real risk and lives could be saved, that would make sense," Key Haven resident Marilyn Smith told AP. "But there are no problems...why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens?" So far, more than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition against the release of the mosquitoes.