After continuous debate for years, finally, State and Environmental protection Agency has approved to release 750 million genetically modified, free-flying mosquitoes in the Chain Island of Florida Key to prevent the deathly mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya, Zike and Yellow Fever.
On August 18, after two hours of virtual discussion, the commission has voted in a 4 -1 ratio to go forward with the project pilot. But the Food Control and Florida Keys Environmental Coalition along with the other local groups oppose the decision.
Genetical Mosquitoes – A new milestone
It was reported that by January 2021, the genetically modified male yellow fever mosquito (OX5034) will be released in the air of Monroe Country, where the keys are located.
The modified eggs are shipped from Oxitec, an England based Biotech Company in Abingdon.
“The science is there this is something Monroe country needs”
The above statement is addressed by the mosquito board member Jill Cranny-Gage. The pest control tactics like aerial spraying of insecticides by aircraft kill only 30 to 50 percent of the local yellow fever mosquitoes. Comparatively the release of 750 million Oxitec genetically modified male mosquitoes is cost-effective and gives a better result than the other pest control methods.
Florida is not the first place to release Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes they are released in the Cayman Islands, Panama, and Malaysia in addition to them they are released in Brazil between 2013 and 2015. In 2016 it is reported to fall off at least 90% of the total population of mosquitoes in the local areas where the GM mosquitoes are introduced.
How does it work?
Research studies prove that only female mosquito bites humans, as they need blood to produce and mature their eggs. Male mosquitoes drink only the nectar of flowers. Thus, the female mosquitoes are the ones who spread the deathly diseases.
In lab studies, Oxitec found that only 3% of the female mosquitoes with the lethal gene survive adulthood. Hence, Oxitec induces the “lethal gene” in the genetically modified male mosquitoes. And they are released in the air to mate with the female mosquitoes.
When the Male mosquitoes with lethal gene mate with a female, the female offspring is affected by the lethal gene thus they don’t survive adulthood, thus don’t bite the humans. Whereas the male offspring are not affected by the lethal gene and they can mate with the female and the mosquito species will not go into extinction.
There are many local bodies still opposing the decision of the commission. In 2018 the decision to release the Gene modified mosquitoes was overturned by the local authorities. But this time commission not only plans to release them in Florida also in Huston Harris Country and Texas in the upcoming years.