Billions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Set to Descend on California and Florida This Summer

J. Rossen,  MENTAL FLOSS,  2022.

Californians may not know it on sight, but there’s going to be something different about their mosquitoes this summer. An invasive species of the bite-prone insects has been genetically modified in an attempt at controlling disease spread. According to Smithsonian, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved plans by biotech firm Oxitec to release 2.4 billion male Aedes aegypti mosquitos in both California and Florida that have been altered so their genes can only participate in producing surviving male offspring. (Females will die before reaching adulthood.) The insects will be introduced as eggs, which will then hatch when exposed to water. Because male mosquitoes do not bite, the theory is that a declining female mosquito population will reduce transmission of Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and other infectious diseases that can be passed on to humans from the bites. The goal is halting outbreaks before they begin. In 2021, Oxitec released 144,000 genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The insects have also been introduced in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and India. While there is no spread of such diseases in California, the firm says a growing mosquito population could eventually pose a problem and that such pilot programs are necessary to assess effectiveness

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