The EPA Just Approved The Release Of Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes in The U.S. Here’s Why.
As if 2020 couldn’t get any crazier, the EPA recently said that a company called Oxitec can release genetically-modified mosquitoes in parts of the country. Sounds crazy, right?
I’m guessing you have the same question I did: WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE WANT TO RELEASE MORE MOSQUITOES?
Why Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes are being released
Turns out Oxitec developed a genetically-modified mosquito that is supposed to reduce the wild population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitos. And what’s so special about Aedes aegypti? Turns out those are the only wild mosquitoes that carry diseases like chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zyka.
Their theory is pretty straightforward: only female mosquitoes bite (in order to get blood in order to lay eggs). The genetically-modified mosquitoes are male only. When the genetically-modified ones mate with the female mosquitoes, they’ll inhibit the survival of female offspring. The male mosquitoes will survive and, over time, significantly reduce the population of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
If you’re skeptical of this working, you’re not alone. I, for one, remember what happened in the “Hunger Games” when they released genetically-modified animals, which in turn bred with a local population and created a whole new species (the mockingjay). Okay, okay. That’s fiction. But still.
There’s a reason the company needs to test their theory out; they don’t know that it will actually reduce the population out in the wild. They also don’t know what else may occur when they send out these genetically-modified mosquitoes out into the wild.
I’m not the only one skeptical of the health and safety of this study. Even the EPA press release shares:
Oxitec is required to monitor and sample the mosquito population weekly in the treatment areas to determine how well the product works for mosquito control and to confirm that the modified genetic traits disappear from the male Aedes aegypti mosquito population over time.
So, it’s a test… with human subjects. That’s one reason why Oxitec hasn’t gotten the all clear to release the mosquitoes. While the EPA has approved it, local authorities in the Florida Keys and Harris County, Texas have NOT.
This means the genetically-modified mosquitoes aren’t going to be released quite yet. I’m sure I’m not alone in breathing a sigh of relief on that score; 2020 has enough going on already.
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