In the next two years after the program was fully approved by the US authorities on Tuesday, more than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes will be released into the Florida keys. The goal is to reduce the number of mosquitoes carrying diseases such as dengue or Zika Virus.
“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,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, in a statement released Wednesday.
“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,” she added.
This project is intended to test whether a genetically modified mosquito is a feasible alternative to insecticide spraying to combat Aedes aegypti. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were infamous for the spread of deadly conditions such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.
The OX5034 mosquito was altered to produce female offspring that die well before hatching in the larval stage and who grow big enough to bite and spread disease. It is only the female mosquito that bites for the blood, and her eggs must mature. Males feed on nectar only and hence are not disease carriers.
According to Oxitec, the US-owned British company that created the GMO has got the approval for release into Harris County, Texas, from 2021.
After years of research into the effect of genetically modified mosquitoes on human and environmental health, the Environmental Protection Agency approved Oxitec’s appeal.
A similar study in Brazil in 2016 was conducted in which researchers reported a decline in mosquitoes carrying diseases.