Aedes aegypti

750 Million Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Be Released; Here’s What it Means For the World

The United States Environmental Agency permitted the British-based company called Oxitec to produce the genetically mutated mosquitoes.

The authorities of Florida have approved the release of over 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes. Their main goal is to reduce the number of deadly viruses that mosquitoes carry, such as dengue, zika virus, yellow fever, etc.

Zika virus
A zika virus mosquito. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The environmental groups were initially not in favour of releasing mutated mosquitoes as they feared that the experiment would go wrong. Also, tampering with nature and its cycle could ultimately get fatal for humans. Activists also warned of possible harm to ecosystems and the creation of hybrid or insecticide-resistant mosquitoes.

In early May, the United States Environmental Agency authorized the British-based company called Oxitec to produce the genetically mutated, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are also known as OX5034. According to Oxitec, it’s completely safe to release mutated mosquitoes in the environment as the ‘males’ specifically do not bite humans. Female mosquitoes do bite humans as they reproduce, and they require blood to fulfil their needs and to produce more eggs.

Moreover, Aedes aegypti are the type of mosquitos that spread deadly diseases among humans, such as dengue fever, zika, chikungunya, etc. The company, Oxitec, plans to release only male mosquitoes in the environment beginning from Flordia so they could breed with the female mosquitoes. The mutated males carry a protein that will eventually kill any female offsprings before they can reach maturity. Furthermore, as males only feed on nectar, they shall survive and pass on the genes.

The main goal is to control the evergrowing population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in multiple areas and reduce the spread of disease. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are generally found in urban areas where they live in standing pools of water. Moreover, they can also be found in gardens, forests, parks, etc.

The officials and authoritative figures at Florida Keys Mosquito Control District granted their final approval to release over 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes over two years. The idea, however, was widely criticised by multiple people. Various activists came forth with uncountable protests. Over 240,000 people have signed a petition on to stop the implementation of Oxitec’s plan. They claim that scientists are using humans as subjects and releasing mutated bugs to roam freely.

According to one of the scientists at Oxitec, they have been gradually releasing the genetically mutated mosquitoes in Brazil. The results so far look promising. The scientists are positive about this as millions of people lose their lives on a day-to-day basis due to the aforementioned viruses.

These viruses are quite common in Africa and Asia. Multiple people die from them as some countries lack proper medication. All in all, this could be one of the best experiments in the history of humankind mainly because we are currently in the middle of a pandemic, and cannot allow other diseases to affect the remaining world population.

Millions of people have already died due to COVID’19, and the scientists and experts are now trying to release the mutated mosquitoes in 2021 to contain other deadly viruses that could harm the world’s population.

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