- Local authorities already approved the release of 750 million “Robo-squitoes” in Florida Keys in 2021 and 2022.
- These genetically-modified mosquitoes are programmed to control Aedes aegypti.
- Local residents and environmental groups object the proposal due to the lack of comprehensive studies about the modified mosquitoes’ impact on humans and the environment.
- Oxitec also plans to release these mutant mosquitoes in Harris County, Texas beginning next year.
In 2021, Oxitec will release 750 million genetically-engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The plan is to use these insects as substitute for insecticides—which are ineffective and costly— to control Aedes aegypti, a mosquito type that carries deadly diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Local authorities have already green-lighted the proposal and it has won state and federal approval as well. However, many residents and environmentalists are protesting, claiming these modified mosquitoes may put humans at risk and “could potentially harm threatened and endangered species.”
Oxitec, a US-owned, British-based company developed 0X5034, a genetically modified male mosquito.
It produces female offsprings that die at the larval stage, while subsequent male offsprings remain carriers of the “kill” gene.
According to the Center for Food Safety, however, scientists are unconvinced that these “Robo-squitoes” are safe.
“Scientists have raised major concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and which may be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety also said,“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.”
“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.
A Change. org petition soliciting 300,000 signatories to stop the plan have, so far, gathered 233,659 signatures as of Thursday.
They are demanding more tests to further assess the risks and impacts of these modified mosquitoes on humans and the environment. On top of that, they’ve also emphasized their refusal to make the fragile environments of Florida Keys and Texas as testing grounds.
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