Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Genetically modified mosquitoes may be released into the wild

To address the recent spread of Zika, voters in Monroe County, Florida, have approved the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. However, the British company Oxitec still needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The genetically modified male mosquitoes are designed to control Aedes aegypti mosquito populations by mating with females and passing down a gene that prevents mosquitoes from reaching maturity. Only male mosquitoes will be released, as they do not bite. This measure is aimed at preventing the spread of Zika--a virus that has recently arrived in Puerto Rico and areas of Miami.

These genetically modified mosquitoes are marketed as a method of controlling mosquito populations without utilizing toxic insecticides. However, significant opposition to the trial was present in Key Haven, where only 35% of residents (as opposed to 58% of voters in Monroe County as a whole) supported the use of this method. Opponents of the measure are not confident about the impacts that this release may have, as the risks of releasing these genetically modified mosquitoes are not well studied.

- Linda Shin

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