Everyone knows that mosquitoes are both annoying and spread diseases, especially those of us that live or grew up near coasts like myself. The company Oxitec is trying to solve this problem by releasing 750 million GMO mosquitoes into the Florida Keys and Harris County, Texas.
What’s Different About GMO Mosquitoes?
Oxitec has genetically modified male mosquitoes so that when it mates with female mosquitoes in the wild the female offspring die in the larva stage. Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite humans and spread diseases, while male mosquitoes feed on flower nectar and are essentially harmless. Lowering the population of female mosquitoes will lower both the overall mosquito population and the number of females biting humans. Mosquitoes can spread harmful diseases such as malaria and the zika virus.
Government Approval and Difficulties
The federal government gave the company approval to conduct this experiment in Florida and Texas, however, local governments have not approved the experiment yet. The company has been working for some time to make this happen. Back in 2016 Oxitec tried and failed to get approved, and they are back to take another swing at it.
There has also been significant backlash from local governments with people criticizing the experiment as a waste of time and tax dollars that could be better utilized for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Florida Keys Environmental Coalition Director also claimed that Oxitec refused to provide proof that their experiment would be safe.
When Would These Experiments Happen?
The experiments got approved by the federal government to be conducted between 2021 and 2022. Oxitec plans to slowly release 750 million GMO mosquitoes over the course of months while monitoring population levels of the most dangerous variety of mosquitoes. This experiment could be good for people since mosquitoes spread illnesses, but the ecological effect is still unclear and could end poorly.
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