Humans have been genetically modifying organisms for decades. In the 90’s it started with fruit and vegetables. In the 2000’s scientists began editing genes in non-plant life. Here we are in the year 2020 and there are plans to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild.
It definitely sounds like the plot of a bad science-fiction movie: scientists release franken-mosquitoes and that somehow creates zombies or vampires or some other fantastic creature. But this is science-fact. Starting next year, the mosquitoes will be released in Key West. There will be 750 million of them released over a two year period.
The mosquitoes in question have been genetically modified so that their female offspring will die automatically before they have a chance to grow into adulthood. As you may know, the female mosquito is the one that bites humans and spread various diseases. The goal of the project is to vastly reduce the amount of female mosquitoes thereby reducing the overall population.
US-operated British company Oxitec is the company that will be handling this project. The particular mosquitoes species is called Aedes aegypti. It’s actually invasive to South Florida so by removing large numbers of them may help restore balance.
Mosquitoes are the most deadly creatures on the planet when it comes to humans. They spread dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. They kill 750,000 people per year.
There is currently a petition on change.org to try and prevent this project from moving forward. People are scared about what the long term effects of this project might be for the eco-system. But it should be noted that these mosquitoes have already been field-tested in Brazil and there have been no unwanted side-effects.
Florida and Texas will be the very first states to introduce the genetically modified mosquito. Both states will see the introduction of these mosquitoes in 2021. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that if these efforts are successful, you will see similar projects in other states.