The fate of the world could depend on Florida. More than 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys over the next two years.
MiamiDiario Editorial Staff
That’s how many mosquitoes are planned to be released in the Florida Keys over the next two years to get rid of Aedes Aegypti, the type of pest that spreads diseases like Zika and yellow fever.
“We are dealing with a dangerous mosquito and that is why we are looking for innovative and effective mosquito control measures to protect public health,” said the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District spokesman Chad Huff.
According to Viterbo’s biology professor, Dr. Ted Wilson, the OX5034 mosquito, created by the British company Oxitec, could wipe out the population of Aedes Aegypti.
“They have genetically engineered, specifically the males, to express the trait (…) The female offspring produced by the males die during the larval stage, which is when they are in the aquatic stage. So, essentially, only the males survive to adulthood, and the new males can transmit this, lethal female trait,” explained Wilson
The release will not take place in 2020, to avoid more disasters this year. However, there is a petition to stop this release, which has more than 236,000 signatures.
Wilson said this process is not foolproof, but OX5034 probably won’t be the end of it all.
“Certainly, there are risks in this that don’t necessarily reach the level of destruction of all of humanity, but they can definitely have a huge detrimental effect on the environment,” he said.
For his part, Huff says that “it is a mosquito that has become extremely adept at survival and has become resistant to pesticides, so this modified insect will mate with the local population and help reduce the population of females that transmit these diseases since they depend on blood while the males consume nectar.
The mosquitoes are expected to be released from 2021, and if successful, the experiment could also be extended to countries in Latin America, a seriously impacted region.
With information from Voa Noticias
Translated by: Aleuzenev Nogales
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