Florida Residents can Expect Species of Genetically Modified Mosquito to be Released into Environment in 2021
Just when we thought we’d heard and experienced it all for 2020, we’ve now learned the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the release of genetically modified mosquitoes.
Despite objections from some Florida residents, over 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes are expected to be released in the Florida Keys in 2021 and 2022 to help battle diseases like Zika Virus.
Purpose of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes
After years of investigating the impact of disease-spreading mosquitoes and the possible outcome of releasing some of the genetically altered insects, Oxitec was given approval to proceed with its project to do so.
It was no easy feat. In fact, it took nearly a decade to obtain project approval in the state of Florida.
The genetically modified mosquitoes in question, named OX5034, have been altered to produce female offspring that don’t live past the larval stage. This means they will not hatch or grow large enough to bite or spread disease.
Male mosquitoes typically only feed on plant nectar, so they are less likely to carry disease.
Approved by the EPA in May 2020, the project is designed to test if a genetically modified mosquito is a practical way to control the Aedes aegypti — instead of insecticides.
Aedes aegypti is a species of mosquito that carries several deadly diseases, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever — making it a risk for many Florida residents.
Federal approval was also given for the mosquitoes to be released in Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021. State and local approval has not been granted as of August 2020.
The British-based company is hoping to protect area residents against vector-borne viruses and harmful insecticides.
Vector-Borne Illnesses in Florida
Although mosquitoes found throughout the country are culprits of spreading numerous diseases, like Eastern Equine encephalitis, dengue fever and yellow fever are most commonly found in warm or tropical areas.
During 2009 and 2010 outbreaks of dengue fever occurred in parts of Florida, particularly Key West, leaving many searching for a new option. And, despite the best efforts of some in the area, the Aedes aegypti mosquito prevailed and proved insecticides were ineffective.
These outbreaks led the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to seek an alternative solution from Oxitec.
So, how does genetically altering a mosquito help the current mosquito situation?
Oxitec has developed a male mosquito, OX513A, that is designed to die before reaching adulthood, unless it is grown in water containing the tetracycline antibiotic.
Batches of these male mosquitoes would then be allowed to live with and mate with female mosquitoes. But the offspring would inherit the altered DNA and die, thus limiting the population.
The male OX513A mosquito has been tested in areas like Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. Oxitec reported great success rates, including a 95% reduction of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in an area of Brazil.
The new male mosquito, OX5034, is programmed to kill female mosquitoes, leaving males to survive for multiple generations. During this time, the modified genes will be passed along to subsequent offspring.
Oxitec is required by the EPA to notify state officials 72 hours before releasing the mosquitoes. The British-owned company is also required to conduct ongoing tests for a minimum of 10 weeks to ensure the females do not reach adulthood.
Organic Mosquito Control Concerns
Despite this news, Florida residents and environmental groups worry about the spread of a genetically modified mosquito.
Their concern is for the safety and health of birds, insects, and mammals that feed on mosquitoes. With many endangered species of birds found throughout the state, the cause for concern is valid.
Protecting residents while also reducing the risk of spreading diseases like Zika, dengue, and yellow fever is important, but protecting the environment is also important.
Harmful chemicals, insecticides, and genetically altered mosquitoes are not the only option when it comes to mosquito control.
Catseye Pest Control offers a one-of-a-kind Organic Tick and Mosquito Program designed to help protect your property from the nuisance pests.
It’s not easy to keep your business, home, family, and pets safe through the high-alert tick and mosquito seasons. But it’s possible for our technicians.
Taking an all-natural approach to pest control that utilizes the latest and most effective preventative services to help control ticks and mosquitoes leaves you with peace of mind throughout the season.
Our program includes:
- An in-depth inspection of the property.
- Tailor-made treatment plan for the property.
- Consultation with a Catseye technician to learn ways to eliminate breeding sites and other conditions conducive to mosquitoes and ticks.
Catseye is committed to using organic, environmentally friendly solutions that provide much needed protection for the property without putting endangered species at risk.
Contact us today to learn more about the organic solutions we have to offer and how we can help keep your property safe from mosquitoes and other pests.