Local authorities approved a plan to release more than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys archipelago in America between 2021 and 2022, with the objection of many local residents and the coalition of environmental defense groups.
“After giving the required final permission, what could go wrong? We don’t know because the Environmental Protection Agency has unlawfully refused serious environmental risk analysis? Now, without further review of the risks, the experiment can continue. ”
After being approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May, the pilot project was designed to test whether the transgenic mosquito was a viable alternative to spraying pesticides to control Aedes aegypti. It is a mosquito that carries many deadly diseases, such as Zika, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
A long battle in Florida.
And in June, Florida issued a pilot use permit after seven government agencies unanimously approved the project. But it took more than a decade to get that approval.
In 2009 and 2010, an outbreak of local dengue fever spread by Aedes aegypti caused the Florida Keys to control mosquitoes. However, local control efforts to contain Aedes aegypti with larvicides and pesticides have been largely ineffective.
The process was also costly, and although Aedes aegypti represents only 1% of the mosquito population, more than $ 1 million annually is allocated to its control.
In 2012, the county called Oxitec for help. The company developed a male mosquito named “OX513A”, which is programmed to die before adulthood unless grown in water containing the antibiotic tetracycline.
Batches of sterilized “OX513A” will be allowed to live and mate with females.
As word spread in the Florida Keys that the mosquito was on its way, the public reaction was swift: More than 242,000 people signed the “Change.org” petition against the proposal.
The Environmental Protection Agency has spent years investigating mosquitoes’ impact on both human health and the environment. However, in the midst of the evaluation, Oxitec developed a second-generation “Friendly Mosquito” technology and withdrew the first application.
The new male mosquito, OX5034, is programmed to kill only female mosquitoes, with the males surviving for several generations and passing on the modified genes to the males.
The EPA permit requires Oxitec to notify officials 72 hours before the mosquitoes are released and conduct continuous testing for at least 10 weeks to ensure that the female mosquitoes do not reach adulthood.
However, environmental groups are concerned that the spread of genetically modified male genes in the wild could harm the species of birds, insects, and mammals that feed on mosquitoes.
“The release of genetically modified mosquitoes will unnecessarily expose Florida’s residents, the environment and endangered species in the midst of the pandemic,” Dana Perls, director of the Food and Technology Program at “Friends of the Earth,” said in a statement.