Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Cleared for Release in California and Florida


Plastic container containing Aedes aegypti

Plastic container including Aedes aegypti mosquito
Photo: For Allison Sherry / The Washington Post ((((Getty Images).

UK biotechnology company Oxitec announced this week that it has received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency to release GM mosquitoes in parts of Florida and California following the completion of last year’s pilot program. Modified male insects are designed to produce infertile offspring, ideally reducing local populations and the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases.

The male mosquito (codenamed OX5034) developed by Oxitec is Aedes aegypti, Zika fever, dengue fever, yellow fever, and many other infamous carriers. When these mosquitoes mate with native females in the area, they are said to simply give birth to female larvae that die before becoming adults, thus fate the population as a whole. And it is believed that modified insects pose no danger to people, as only female mosquitoes bite and suck blood from humans.

Last year, with approval from the EPA and local governments, Oxitec Release A pilot program that works with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to release millions of these mosquitoes in selected areas of Florida. On Wednesday, Oxitec said the EPA issued approval to continue the Florida program and to approve the new program in California. The EPA’s decision allows more than 2 billion mosquitoes to be released in the two states.

“Our team is very proud to receive yet another milestone approval from the EPA. This expansion of our efforts in the United States is with a variety of stakeholders at the local, state and national levels. “Reflects our strong partnership,” said Gray Frandsen, CEO of Oxitec. statement From the company.

The Oxitec method is the latest example known as the sterile insect technique. It was previously used to eradicate or reduce the population of other harmful pests such as Cochliomyia hob. However, this program would not have been possible without controversy.Some residents of Florida have long Protested Release of mosquitoes. Some groups claim that it can pose an unknown environmental or health risk. Others argued that the EPA and local agencies did not do enough to ensure full transparency of the project.

The paper for September 2019 was drawn Much attention In response to alleging that a small portion of the offspring produced by Oxitec mosquitoes in Brazil actually survived and showed that they were spreading the gene to the rest of the population. However, the paper was quickly criticized by other scientists for the lack of compelling evidence to support these claims. Expressing concerns Many of these suspicious flaws were laid out by the journal editors and attached to the paper by March 2020.

Meanwhile, according to data released by Oxitec, the program has significantly reduced the number of local mosquitoes, including Brazil. Officially approved Use of these mosquitoes in 2020. The EPA is part of that state The release of modified mosquitoes into the community is not considered to pose a risk to humans, animals, or the environment. An irrelevant sterile mosquito program elsewhere that uses bacteria rather than genes to reduce infertility in male mosquitoes Also showed success In reducing the number of mosquitoes and the incidence of diseases such as dengue.

The EPA has approved the upcoming Oxitec program, but the company requires additional permission from the relevant local regulators, but this is not always the case.For example, despite receiving the EPA’s go-ahead for a program in Texas starting in 2021, in the end Did not happen..

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