Florida Keys Officials OK Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Local authorities that govern the Florida Keys and part of the Everglades have given their approval to the release of 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes over the next two years to control a specific species of the insect and reduce the spread of dengue, Zika, yellow fever and other diseases.

The Monroe County Mosquito Control District gave its consent Wednesday to release of the altered male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which produce dead offspring.

“We have shown that the release of mosquitoes in a neighborhood results in 95 percent suppression compared to areas with no release,” Nathan Rose, director of regulatory affairs with the British biotech firm Oxitec which developed the insects, was quoted by UPI.

The males, which do not bite humans but feed on nectar, mate with the females that are known to bite humans for their blood and spread disease.

The mosquito, OX5034, passes on a gene which prevents the larvae from maturing.

Oxitec says this will “cause the temporary collapse of a wild population” of female mosquitoes.

The EPA approved the use of the mosquitoes in May.

Environmental groups have opposed the release.

At Tuesday’s Monroe County video conference hearing on the issue, the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition’s Barry Wray said his group has “no idea” how the GM mosquitoes will affect the Florida Keys’ ecosystem.

A study showed that the mosquitoes were effective in reducing the insect population during a trial in Brazil.

While the Aedes aegypti comprises only 1% of the mosquito population, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control spends more than $1 million a year – about one-tenth of its budget – to combat the insect, CNN reported.

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