- Trials of the first-ever US release of genetically engineered being this week
- Florida has been chosen due to its influx of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
- This species, which comes from Brazil, carries Zika and other diseases
- The modified mosquitoes pass a specific protein to females during mating
- This ensures female offspring do not survive the next generation
- However, residents are furious about the ‘live experiment’
- Some are saying the release of up to a billion is an act of terrorism
The Florida Keys will soon be buzzing with close to a billion ‘fraken-squitoes’ – gene-hacked mosquitoes aimed at eradicating a disease carrying mosquito.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) and Oxitec, a British biotech company, are starting the first-ever U.S. release of genetically engineered (GE) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes this week, which will see up to a billion over a two-year period.
The project aims to reduce the numbers of Aedes aegypti, one of several mosquito species that can carry diseases including dengue, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever.
Floridians, however, are calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to end ‘this live experiment’ saying they are being subjected to terrorism by the FKMCD.
The trial is set to begin this week, with the first phase releasing up to 144,000 GE mosquitoes over the next 12 weeks. Ultimately, up to a billion will be released in Monroe County.
The GE mosquitos, developed by Oxitect, have been modified to pass on a particular protein when they mate, which ensures female offspring do not survive the next generation.
With fewer females in each subsequent generation, the researchers hope overall mosquito populations in the region will decrease along with transmission rates of disease passed through mosquito bites.