In what could literally be a script to a Hollywood blockbuster super villain movie, a British biotech company, ‘Oxitec’ is due to release billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in counties of Florida and California.
Oxitec has previously released GE mosquitoes in parts of Brazil; with the hopes to stem the insect’s population growth and disease control in the region. However, that has not happened, and the GE mosquitoes have bred with the local population of mosquitoes creating a hybrid species.
A Yale study has suggested that the new hybrid species had become more aggressive, more difficult to eradicate and may increase the spread of mosquito born disease.
Despite strong public opposition, in April 2021, Oxitec and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board began the release of half a billion GE mosquitoes into Monroe County, Florida.
Although the EPA has approved the program, California’s Department of Pesticide regulation and local mosquito abatement districts will also decide whether to approve the permit for release.
If the program is approved billions of mosquitoes will be released over a 2-year period in 4 counties of California, beginning in 2022 and the current program in Monroe County Florida will be extended for another 2 years.