Oxitec’s mosquitoes are getting “friendly” with California

L. Patrick,  The Sun Gazette,  2022.

Biotech company Oxitec is buzzing around Visalia, with the hopes of releasing their genetically engineered mosquitoes in Tulare County. Oxitec has one more hurdle to jump over in order to release their “friendly” Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Tulare County, and that’s to gain the approval of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Though their attempts to release their GE mosquitoes in California have been met with both supportive and hesitant reactions from different state agencies and environmental groups, Oxitec’s Dr. Kevin Gorman said the technology has been researched and reviewed with “much scrutiny,” despite claims that the mosquitoes are ineffective or hazardous. “We have a biological approach to managing pest insects, and the biological approach is a mating-based technology. It’s very targeted, it only affects the species that [they’re] mating with,” Gorman said. “Not only is it environmentally safe, it’s effective.” The male GE mosquitoes from Oxitec have been engineered with a self-limiting gene, and this gene infects wild female mosquitoes to prevent them from reproducing female offspring. This leaves only male mosquitoes in the gene pool, according to Gorman. Female mosquitoes are targeted since they are the only ones that bite, and therefore capable of transmitting diseases. The engineered males will only mate with Aedes aegypti females, and do not leave an environmental footprint, according to Gorman. The release of these mosquitoes is supposed to reduce the natural population of the invasive mosquito, which are known to carry diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever and others.

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