2 Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Have Been Approved For Release In Florida And California

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sanctioned the release of 2 billion genetically modified mosquitos in Florida and California, Oxitec, the company that created the genetically modified mosquitoes, said.

Oxitec’s experimental program intends to reduce the spread of hazardous diseases like dengue, Zika, and yellow fever by destroying the offspring of a common type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which transmits diseases through its sting.

Scientists at Oxitec, located in the United Kingdom, mass generate and genetically engineer male Aedes aegypti eggs in a lab. These male mosquitos will be released into the wild to mate with females and pass on a gene that kills the female offspring, which are the only ones that sting and carry disease. The male offspring survive.

“Given the growing health threat this mosquito poses across the U.S., we’re working to make this technology available and accessible,” Grey Frandsen, CEO of Oxitec, said.

“These pilot programs, wherein we can demonstrate the technology’s effectiveness in different climate settings, will play an important role in doing so.”

Billions of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Set for Release - Bestinau

On the other hand, environmental activists have questioned the experiment, claiming that there is a lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence from the Florida Keys project. According to Friends of the Earth, no locally acquired cases of dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, or Zika have been reported in California.

“EPA needs to do a real review of potential risks and stop ignoring widespread opposition in the communities where releases will happen,” Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to be released in Florida

“Once released into the environment, genetically engineered mosquitoes cannot be recalled,” said Robert Gould, president of San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility said.

“Rather than forge ahead with an unregulated open-air genetic experiment, we need precautionary action, transparent data, and appropriate risk assessments.”

The EPA approved the effort for one Florida county and four California counties, according to Meredith Fensom, Oxitec’s head of global public affairs. However, the initial rollout will be limited to the Florida Keys before expanding to Visalia, California, in Tulare County.

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