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Florida to release genetically modified mosquitoes to prevent diseases like Zika

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Local authorities on Tuesday gave final approval to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys over a two-year period, starting in 2021. 

The aim is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue or the Zika virus.

The approval of a pilot project after years of debate drew a swift outcry from residents and environmental advocacy groups, who warned of unintended consequences.

One group condemned the plan as a public “Jurassic Park experiment”.

“With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida —  the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change —  the administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety in a statement released Wednesday.

“Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong? We don’t know, because EPA unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed,” he continued.

The plan has many critics, including nearly 240,000 people who signed a petition on Change.org slamming Oxitec’s plan to use US states “as a testing ground for these mutant bugs”.

According to Oxitec’s website, the company has found positive results conducting field trials in Brazil. It also plans to deploy them in Texas beginning in 2021 and has gained federal approval, but not state or local approval, according to reports.

In a statement denouncing the project, environmental group Friends of the Earth said: “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic.”

“This approval is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”

But an Oxitec scientist told AP news agency: “We have released over a billion of our mosquitoes over the years. There is no potential for risk to the environment or humans”.

The U.S. project is designed to further test the effectiveness of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and see if they are a viable option to pesticides. A similar project was approved in Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021, the company said.

Related Articles Around The Web.

Florida to release genetically modified mosquitoes, detractors blast ‘Jurassic Park’ experiment

Florida mosquitoes: 750 million genetically modified insects to be released

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