Elections

In Florida Keys, most voters favor GMO mosquito release experiment

In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil.
In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil. AP

Monroe County voters and those in the Lower Keys neighborhood of Key Haven on Tuesday were split on releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in Key Haven as a test to see whether the measure can reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry Zika and other viruses.

In a nonbinding referendum, about 58 percent of voters countywide favored the mosquito release. In Key Haven, where the same question was asked, about 65 percent of voters opposed the release.

The final decision on whether millions of GMO mosquitoes will be released in Key Haven in spring 2017 to battle the Zika virus falls on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board. The agenda has not yet been prepared for the board’s Nov. 19 meeting, and Beth Ranson, public information officer, could not confirm whether it will be discussed.

In the past, commissioners said it would be months before an actual GMO bug release, if they OK it.

A British company, Oxitec, has proposed the mosquito release in order to disrupt the breeding of the insects.

Commissioners

The new District 1 commissioner for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board is Republican Brandon Pinder. He replaces Steve Smith, a Democrat who was on the board since 1997. Pinder will serve four years.

Pinder works for developer Pritam Singh in information technology. Unofficial results show he received about 58 percent of the vote, while Smith received about 42 percent.

For District 3, incumbent Republican Jill Cranney-Gage will serve a second term. She won with about 63 percent of the vote, defeating Democrat Kathryn Watkins and Oliver Kofoid of the Green Party.

Cranney-Gage works in finance for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

In District 4, Democrat Stan Zuba is the new commissioner for the open seat, with about 55 percent of the vote. Realtor Janet Wood, a Republican, received about 45 percent. Zuba is a pediatrician who replaces longtime Commissioner Bill Shaw, who decided not to run again.

Zuba said his medical background gives him a leg up when it comes to understanding the biology of genetically modified mosquitoes.

New commissioners will be sworn in at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

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