The state of Florida, United States, has recently approved a plan that will release more than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes into the Keys area during the years 2021 and 2022.
The ultimate goal of the experiment is to test whether a genetically modified mosquito is a real alternative to the application of insecticides to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a species that carries several deadly diseases, such as dengue fever, zika, or yellow fever.
OX5034 is the name given to the mosquito, which has been altered so that its female offspring die while still in their larvae. This is because the female mosquito bites in search of blood, which she needs to mature her eggs, and that is when she transmits the diseases. The males have nectar as their food, so they can’t carry any diseases.
“This is an exciting development because it represents the pioneering work of hundreds of passionate people over a decade in several countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, zika, yellow fever and other vector-borne diseases,” Gray Frandsen, the executive director of Oxitec, the company in charge of the experiment, said in a statement.
The plan has had several voices against it, mainly from local residents and various environmental groups. “The administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment,” said Jaydee Hanson, the policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Security, in a statement released Wednesday.
In addition, Hanson stated that he does not have the environmental safeguards: “What could go wrong? We don’t know, because the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) illegally refused to seriously analyze the environmental risks, (and) now without further review of the risks the experiment can continue,” she concluded.