A massive swarm of 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes is planned to be released in Florida and Texas. The release is one step closer to being conducted as one state regulator had already approved the project. Several environmentalists, however, have expressed their criticisms and objections to the idea.
According to The Guardian, a British biotechnology company, Oxitec, had chosen the United States as a testing grounds for a unique kind of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes.
These types of creatures contain a protein that will lessen their chances of survival when it is passed down to female offsprings.
The test hopes to decrease the population of mosquitoes in a region and reducing the number of people they bite to hopefully slow the spread of dengue fever and Zika.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced on Tuesday that it had given the go-signal to release the swarm of mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in the summer. The region is made up of a string of scenic islands that extend outwards from the southern tip of the state.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had given its approval to the project last month. The agency also allowed a second trial to be conducted next year, which will have the mosquitoes tested in Texas.
The technology of genetically modified mosquitoes had already been approved for use in the country of Brazil after the success of its pilot project, as reported by Alliance for Science.
Researchers found the results of the test in Brazil to be successful as it reduced the population of the Aedes Aegypti by 95% across 13 weeks without using insecticides.
With the success of the technology and its benefits to human and environmental health, several groups who have a long history of going against agencies and GM-related activities have filed an intent to sue against the EPA and its issuance of permits.
The permit requires Oxitec to give due notice to state officials 72 hours before the release of the mosquitoes. It must closely monitor the status of the insects until ten weeks after to assess that none of the mosquitoes reaches adulthood accurately.
The way the test would lower the population of dangerous mosquitoes is by releasing the genetically modified males that will pass a gene to their offspring which causes them not to reach maturity, as reported by Orlando Sentinel.
The executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, Barry Wray, said that citizens of Florida do not welcome the project that puts the people at risk.
Mosquitoes have run rampant throughout the state of Florida for a long time, and Native Americans used smoke or bury themselves under the sand to avoid the creatures and their deadly bites.
Early white settlers, on the other hand, smeared bear fat onto themselves or burned oily rags to ward off the mosquitoes.
Recently, however, officials have authorized mass spraying of insecticides into mosquito habitats which have also been linked to the death of non-mosquito creatures including bees.
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