US company Oxitec has been given the green light to release billions of mosquitoes in Florida and California. The goal is to combat diseases such as dengue fever and Zika virus, which are spread by mosquitoes. Opponents describe the experiment as “unnecessary and even dangerous”.
With US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval, about 2.4 billion Aedes aegypti mosquitoes may be released in 2022 and 2024. In California about 2 billion units, in Florida about 400 million.
Mosquitoes – males only – contain a special protein. This protein ensures that if males mate with females, their offspring will die anyway. This would significantly reduce the transmission of diseases such as dengue and yellow fever.
However, not everyone is thrilled with the experience: “Once a genetically modified mosquito is released into the environment, it can’t be remembered,” said Robert Gould, San Francisco Bay Chief Physician for Social Responsibility. “Instead of continuing with an unregulated genetic experiment in the open air, we need precautions, transparent data and appropriate risk assessments,” she added.
The International Center for Technology Assessment agrees: “This trial is unnecessary and even dangerous, as there are no local cases of dengue fever or Zika virus in California.”
Their concerns were also reinforced by a similar experiment in Brazil in 2019. There, many mosquitoes survived the protein, which exacerbated the mosquito problem.
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