MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Cinnamon S. Bloss, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health
Division of Health Policy
University of California, San Diego
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: In 2016, the FDA invited public comments on a draft environmental assessment for a proposed field trial of a genetically modified (GM) mosquito designed to suppress wild-type Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The preliminary finding from the environmental assessment indicated the trial would be unlikely to adversely affect the environment in Key Haven, Florida, the proposed trial site. We assessed public response to this trial based on the content of public comments submitted to the FDA by requesting comment transcripts through the Freedom of Information Act.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Of the 2,624 comments analyzed, most were opposed to the trial (74.8%), 21.6% were supportive, and 3.6% of people were neutral. Topics we saw come up repeatedly in people’s comments were human health implications (67.3%), general issues with genetically modified organisms (65.1%), concerns for ecological safety (51.2%), and mistrust of government or industry (23.6%). Zip codes were available from roughly 43% of all comments and after georeferencing attitudes to GM mosquitoes, we found that opposition was significantly associated with comments from zip codes with micropolitan areas, higher elevations, lower average house values, and lower household incomes.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: This study found that members of the public activated to respond to a federal document have predominately negative views on the use of GM mosquitoes. Even though this group is unlikely representative of the general public, the vocal minority who have expressed views on this topic have influenced whether and where field trials may go forward, and therefore it is worthwhile to understand those views.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: The mention of mistrust suggests that we have an opportunity to better understand the issue of public trust in novel vector control interventions. We know that public trust is foundational to the success of public health interventions, so our efforts to understand and respond to public concerns are critical.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Bloss CS, Stoler J, Brouwer KC, Bietz M, Cheung C. Public Response to a Proposed Field Trial of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in the United States. JAMA. 2017;318(7):662–664. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9285
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