GMO Mosquitoes: Mutant Lab-Created Mosquitoes To Be Released In Florida To Fight Zika Virus, FDA Approves

The FDA has approved the release of genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys in a bid to battle the spread of the Zika virus. The mutant mosquitoes are created in U.S. laboratories. The mosquitoes that will be released in the Florida Keys are all non-biting male Aedes aegyptis species. Scientists hope that the genetically modified male mosquitoes will breed with the female mosquitoes, creating offspring which cannot survive outside of a lab setting, causing a drop in the mosquito population.

The Daily Mail reports that the Aedes aegyptis mosquito is known for carrying the Zika virus and by curbing the population of these types of mosquitoes in Florida, scientists could also decrease the number of Zika infected mosquitoes in the area. The genetically modified mosquitoes are created in a lab with their DNA being synthetically altered to produce offspring that will die outside of a lab setting. Therefore, if the GM mosquitoes breed with females in the general mosquito population, the offspring will not survive.

The FDA has approved the release of the mutant mosquitoes as it is revealed that current measures are not working to slow the spread of Zika in Miami. Currently, aerial spraying of insecticides seems to be working at a minimum with some health officials worrying the mosquitoes have grown immune to the spray. CDC Chief Dr. Tom Frieden has been vocal about his concern regarding the mosquitoes apparent resistance to the sprays which has sparked the way for more unique measures such as the genetically modified mosquitoes. However, local health authorities say that it seems the sprays are finally taking effect in the area and Frieden says some of the results are promising.

Despite efforts of the spray finally taking effect, it seems the FDA and CDC want to ensure the populations are kept in check as the Zika virus spreads which means that the mutant mosquitoes are being slated for release. The Florida Keys will be the testing ground for the GM mosquitoes but a release date has not been provided. Though the FDA and health officials in the U.S. have deemed the release of the mosquitoes safe, others have adamantly opposed the release noting that the impact of such a release could be irreversible.

According to Common Dreams, the genetically modified mosquitoes were created by Oxitec, the maker of other popular GMO products such as AquaBounty Salmon. The company notes that the release of the male mosquitoes can be beneficial as it will reduce the mosquito population and ultimately the amount of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

“Oxitec has genetically engineered male mosquitoes—known as OX513A males—which it will release into the wild to mate with native female Aedes aegypti, which bite and can potentially spread disease. Their offspring die off, reducing the population. “

However, Zen Honeycutt, the director of an anti-GMO group called Moms Across America, has concerns about the release of the mutant mosquitoes. Honeycutt notes that without long-term environmental impact studies, it is “irresponsible” to release the altered mosquitoes into the general population. One concern is the effect on animals that eat mosquitoes and what it may do to those animals or others up the food chain. Similarly, Honeycutt notes that once in the environment the mosquitoes can’t be controlled which could cause irreversible should negative impacts occur.

“Releasing GMO mosquitoes into the environment without long term environmental impact studies is irresponsible and frightening. What about the creatures who eat the mosquitoes and all the life forms up the food chain? The impact could be irreversible… Allowing uncontrollable genetically altered life forms into the wild is not justified.”

What do you think about the release of genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys in a bid to curb the Zika virus? Is it irresponsible?

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