Florida releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to fix their mosquito problem

Recently, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) officially approved a new plan to fix the mosquito problem. How exactly does it work? Well, the idea is to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes to lower the numbers of another mosquito species, specifically the Aedes aegypti. Aedes aegypti is such a big problem because this species carries many diseases such as Zika, yellow fever, and many more. These mosquitoes are actually the cause of the current outbreak of dengue fever in the Upper Keys, which has infected almost 50 people so far.

Aedes aegypti - Wikipedia
Picture of the Aedes Aegypti (Photo provided by en.wikipedia.org)

These mosquitoes only make up a total of 1% of the total mosquito population, and yet they’re still a huge problem for us. The FKMCD spends more than a million dollars a year to keep these pests under control, but even that’s not enough. Now, Florida scientists believe that their new creations finally have a chance to solve the problem. The official name for the new genetically modified mosquitoes is OX5034, and their job is to mate with the Aedes aegypti. The hope is that these two species will create female offspring that purposefully won’t live on to become adults.

Since, only female mosquitoes bite people to drink their blood, and males are just fine with nectar, this will decrease the likelihood of the spread of disease If the female offspring all die before they can become fully grown mosquitoes, they won’t ever have the chance to bite people and risk transferring their diseases over to them. The scientists are confident that their solution will succeed. In fact they’re so confident, that there’s already another plan to release more of these mosquitoes in a county in Texas.

However, some environmentalists disagree with this assumption, saying that this will actually backfire on the scientists. These scientists are saying that allowing the OX5034 to breed with Aedes aegypti will result in a hybrid mosquito species that will actually be more resistant to insecticides, and make them even harder to control.

There is also the risk that these mosquitoes can endanger the ecosystem’s balance, and drastically change how it’s originally supposed to be. Florida is home to lots of exotic plants and animals and it would be a shame to see it all go away because we wanted to get rid of a few mosquitoes. This plan has actually been proposed before, back in 2018, but it was set aside since most of the local people voted against it. 

As for now the plan is starting to get into motion, no one knows for certain what will happen. When this idea was first introduced it was set aside. So there’s a chance that will happen again and the OX5034 will never be released into the wild. However, one thing we know for sure is that no one likes a pesky mosquito sucking up their blood.

For more information about this matter, please click here.

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