The release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys cleared a significant hurdle Friday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced they pose no significant environmental danger.
The preliminary findings, to be published in the Federal Register, will be open for public comment for the next 30 days. But the initial federal review likely clears the way for a long-delayed field trial by British producer Oxitec in the tiny affluent neighborhood of Key Haven a mile east of Key West.
Pressure has mounted to speed up testing after the arrival of the Zika virus, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, in the U.S. and Florida. While no cases have been contracted locally, health officials fear South Florida could face an outbreak. Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes have already been released in South America, where health officials say an ongoing Zika outbreak could infect 4 million people by the end of the year. The virus is tied to a host of health problems, possibly including a spike in babies born withmicrocephaly in Brazil.