Local officials in Florida have announced they will allow 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes for release into the environment in an effort to reduce the local population of the blood-sucking creatures. The goal of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as dengue fever or the Zika virus. Approval to release the errors was granted after environmental groups warned of unintended consequences.
The activists feared the genetically modified mosquitoes could damage ecosystems and increase the potential for the emergence of an insecticide-resistant hybrid insect. However, the company dealing with the genetically modified mosquitoes states that there is no adverse risk to humans or the environment. Several government-sponsored studies have shown no risk to the environment, according to the company.
Officials intend to release the modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys next year, months after federal regulators approved them. The company behind the bugs comes from the USA and is called Oxitec. The Environmental Protection Agency has given the company permission to release the genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes known as OX5034.
This is the type of mosquito known to transmit deadly diseases to humans, including Zika among others. The reason all genetically modified mosquitoes are male is because they don’t bite humans. Only female mosquitoes bite people because they need blood to produce eggs. The hope is that the genetically modified male mosquitoes will reproduce with the wild female mosquitoes.
The male mosquitoes carry a protein that kills all female offspring before they reach ripe bite age. The males only feed on nectar and survive and pass on the genes. The aim is to reduce the population of the potentially deadly mosquitoes in the region and to reduce the spread of diseases to humans.