Jun 12, 2020

Fact Check: Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Cleared For Release In The US

The Environmental Protection Agency approved an experimental use permit May 1 that allows Oxitec to release genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys and Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located.
“To meet today’s public health challenges head-on, the nation needs to facilitate innovation and advance the science around new tools and approaches to better protect the health of all Americans,” according to the EPA’s news release.
The permit, which lasts for two years, requires Oxitec to “monitor and sample the mosquito population weekly.”
“EPA has also maintained the right to cancel the (permit) at any point during the 24-month period if unforeseen outcomes occur,” according to the release.
Wait. Why would a company create a new kind of mosquito? What purpose does it serve?
Oxitec claims its Aedes aegypti mosquito (known as the OX5034) can drastically reduce the spread of Zika as well as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
Remember a few years ago when people – especially pregnant women – were concerned about contracting the Zika virus?
It’s the virus that could cause a birth defect called microcephaly (underdevelopment of the head and brain), according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Well, Oxitec claims its Aedes aegypti mosquito (known as the OX5034) can drastically reduce the spread of Zika as well as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Here’s how it works

Male mosquitoes don’t bite; they feed on flower nectar. Basically, male mosquitoes are harmless to humans. But female mosquitoes use blood to grow their eggs.
Oxitec created a male mosquito with a special gene that prevents female offspring from surviving to adulthood. The new males grow up, mate with more females and over time the number of Aedes Aegypti declines.
“Continual, large-scale releases of these OX5034 GM males should eventually cause the temporary collapse of a wild population,” according to Oxitec.
In Brazil, which suffered a Zika outbreak in 2015 and 2016, the company claims its “friendly” mosquitoes reduced the population of Aedes Aegypti by 89% to 96%.
Is there opposition to these genetically modified mosquitoes?

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