While you were worrying about murder hornets, Florida was busy with plans to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. No, it’s not a mad scientist’s attempt at a diabolical takeover, it’s a project designed to find a viable alternative to spraying insecticides that kill the Aedes aegypti — a species of mosquito that carries diseases like Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
The mosquitoes have been altered to produce female offspring that die in the larval stage, before they can hatch and grow large enough to bite and spread diseases (only female mosquitoes bite for blood). They’re mosquitoes are scheduled to be released in the Florida Keys in 2021 and 2022.
The genetically modified organism is being developed by Oxitec. “This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases,” said Grey Frandsen, Oxitec CEO, in a statement back in May when the project was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The fight against dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases has been a long one in Florida. Although this new project was approved by the EPA, concerns still remain about the potential impact on the population, wildlife, and environment.