EPA approves field trials of genetically modified mosquito

A. Wernick,  WBFO npr,  2020.

The Environmental Protection Agency has given biotech company Oxitec the go-ahead to test the effectiveness of genetically modified mosquitoes in parts of Florida and Texas.

Oxitec has been developing genetically modified mosquitoes in hopes of reducing local populations of mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, yellow fever and the Zika virus. About 750,000 people die each year from mosquito-borne illnesses, making the insect indirectly responsible for more human deaths than any other animal in the world.

Oxitec plans to target a particular mosquito called Aedes aegypti. The company hopes introducing the genetically engineered version of this mosquito will reduce its overall population and lessen the need for ecologically damaging pesticides.

The EPA approval is controversial and has received pushback from ethicists and molecular biologists, including Natalie Kofler, founding director of Editing Nature, a working group on the ethics of genetic modification and an advisor for the Scientific Citizenship Initiative at Harvard Medical School.


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