Talk about the roller coaster of a lifetime. 2020 is definitely a year that will go down in history…and not for the best reasons. It has just been one thing after another happening in the U.S. that we can hardly keep up with what the new, next bad thing is!
This summer, for the very first time, genetically modified mosquitoes are planning to be released in Florida and Texas. I live in Texas so I not very excited about this news.
On May 1, 2020, a company called Oxitec received an experimental use permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes (labeled by Oxitec as OX5034) every week over the next two years in Florida and Texas.
Females of this mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, transmit dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses.
When these lab-bred, genetically modified males are released and mate with wild females, their female offspring die.
The hope is that a large-scale release of these genetically modified males should eventually cause the temporary collapse of a wild population.
While this sounds great in theory, after the year we have had, the thought of willingly releasing blood-sucking insects just doesn’t quite sound appealing to me…at all.
Although the use of genetic engineering offers us the opportunity to make so many good changes in the world, we have no idea what these altercations could mean for our future. Mosquitoes that can’t spread disease is one example of how genetic engineering may transform the natural world.
No group of organisms has received more attention for genetic modification than mosquitoes, so to yield in-viable offspring or make them unsuitable for disease transmission, would be quite the game changer.
Hundreds of millions of people are impacted by mosquito-borne diseases each year. So to be able to take that away does make it seem worth it to willingly release mosquitoes into the wild. But at the same time…2020 has given us some trust issues so this may not be the best year.
We are also unable to view the files of the risk assessments made to clear this experiment, done by the EPA regulators, which is obviously concerning.
Having an official, government-funded registry for genetically modified organisms, specifically designed to reproduce in the wild and intended for release in the U.S., would make risk assessments more transparent and accountable.
So what are your thoughts on this? The goal is to stop mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases from breeding and spreading the disease. That in itself is awesome and amazing. But we will have to release even more mosquitoes into the wild that have been genetically modified, which just in itself, is scary.
I’m on the fence about this one, especially since I live in one of the testing states.