More than 100,000 residents in Key West have signed a petition against introducing several thousand genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida ecosystem.
The Christian Post reports that the 5,000 to 10,000 modified male insects are designed by British company Oxitec to die off more quickly. The hope is that when they reproduce with the local mosquito population, it would eventually reduce the rates of dengue fever.
However, Mila de Mier says that the long-term effects of the so-called "mutant mosquitoes" are unknown and launched an online petition that she plans to deliver to Gov. Rick Scott and other officials once it reaches 150,000 signatures.
"There are more questions than answers and we need more testing to be done," de Mier writes on the petition site, claiming that dengue fever has been absent from Key West since 2010.
Although dengue fever has unpleasant symptoms, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says it is not considered a deadly disease. Its effects are commonly treated with Tylenol and fluids.
And as with all online petitions, it's important to put the results into context. As of now, it's impossible to know exactly how many of the supporters are even residents of Key West. U.S. Census data shows that Key West only has a population of about 25,000 residents and the entire Florida Keys are home to about 73,000 people.
The IBTimes notes that concerns over the plan have tapped into a larger debate over genetically modified foods.
"We won't be lab rats just so this company can make money. Oxitec says we have to do this to control mosquitoes, but it's just not true," de Mier told Orlando's WKMG-TV. "Other methods of mosquito control are working. We don't need to gamble with mutant mosquitoes."