Organizers of a political action committee formed to oppose the potential release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Lower Keys neighborhood of Key Haven say they were sideswiped by Oxitec’s parent company shortly after their committee was formed.

Intrexon Corp., a company based in Germantown, Md., in 2015 acquired Oxitec, the company proposing a trial release of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the Zika virus in the Florida Keys. Intrexon has since acquired the services of a PR company to promote the release.


Citizens for Safe Science, the Key West-based group against releasing the mosquitoes, had $2,860 in contributions to the committee as of Friday. Chairwoman Dina Schoneck said the group has paid for radio ads to “to get the word out that there is opposition” to the release of the mosquitoes. 

But $2,860 is a lot less to work with than $100,050, which is how much the Florida Keys Safety Alliance has in its campaign account. Two donations of $50,000 came from Intrexon and the alliance issued a press release in August that it “has launched an education awareness campaign to reach the residents in Monroe County who will be voting on a non-binding referendum related to the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to suppress the invasive Aedes aeqypti mosquito.”

Aedes aegypti carry the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects in the newborns of women. For others, it causes flu-like symptoms. As of Friday, there had been 708 confirmed cases statewide with five in Monroe County, all travel related. 

In two nonbinding referendums on Nov. 8, Keys residents will vote for or against the release of the mosquitoes in Key Haven. One vote is for Key Haven residents, the other for voters countywide.

Since Oxitec is a British company, Intrexon by federal law must be the entity to promote the Nov. 8 nonbinding referendum or any other U.S. election matters.

Citizens for Safe Science organizers say they’ll keep spreading the word of their concern, no matter how much money they have. 

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