In addition some mosquito bites cause annoying itching, but they can also leave people with various diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, zika, & yellow fever. Now a company is trying to do something about it, and the US government is on board!
A plan to end mosquito borne diseases
The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved plans from the biotech company Oxitec to release billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida & California to fight mosquito-borne diseases. Oxitec will now release 2.4 billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in 2 periods between 2022 & 2024.
These insects are male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to express the tTAV-OX5034 protein. Once these males mate with wild female mosquitoes, The protein will-be passed on & kills the female offspring which is responsible for biting humans & infecting them with diseases.
This process, scientists hope, will eliminate mosquito-borne disease transmissions & protect vulnerable populations. But not everyone is on board.
“Scientists have found genetic material from genetically modified mosquitoes in wild populations at significant levels, which means that genetically modified mosquitoes are not sterile. Genetically engineered mosquitoes could cause far more health & environmental problems than they solve,” said Dana Perls Food & Technology Program Manager at friends of earth & California resident.
“The EPA needs to do a real review of the potential risks & stop ignoring the widespread opposition in communities where the releases will take place.
“This experiment is unnecessary and even dangerous, as there are no locally acquired cases of dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya or Zika in California,” added Jaydee Hanson, policy director of International Center for Technology. Assessment & Center for Food Safety. “The release of billions of genetically modified mosquitoes makes it likely that female genetically modified mosquitoes will come out and create hybrid mosquitoes which are more virulent & aggressive.
Oxitec attempted to respond to this criticism by insisting that their experiments are safe for humans and other insect populations and that controlling these mosquito-borne diseases is absolutely essential.
“Given the growing health threat posed by this mosquito in the United States, we are working to make this technology available & accessible. These pilot programs, where we can demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology in different climatic settings, will play an important role. We can’t wait to get to work this year,” said Gray Frandsen, CEO of Oxitec.
In the past, trials with mosquitoes engineered to spread anti malarial genes have been successful. So why should this experience be any different?