Beginning next year, millions of genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys and in Houston, Texas in an attempt to battle insect-borne diseases such as Zika and Dengue Fever.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans on starting the project on World Mosquito Day, which is Thursday, August 20.
The EPA approved a British biotechnology company that develops GMO insects to assist in insect control called Oxitec to run the project.
The concept is that the all-male genetically modified mosquitoes, named OX5034, carry a special gene that kills any female offspring produced by the GMO insects.
Because female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite humans for blood, this would hypothetically limit the threat they pose to public health.
However, not everyone sees the experiment as a safe and effective way to try and limit the transmission of two viruses that pose a minimal threat to Americans in the first place.
International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety Policy Director Jaydee Hanson compared the trial to the film “Jurassic Park.”
“With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida — the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change — the administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment,” he stated. “Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong? We don’t know, because EPA unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed.”
“The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic,” said Dana Perls, food and technology Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “This approval is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”
An Oxitec scientist talking with AP countered by saying, “We have released over a billion of our mosquitoes over the years. There is no potential for risk to the environment or humans.”
Whether they are harmful or not, the insects will be released in 2021 in the Florida Keys islands and an area just outside Houston, Texas.
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