FDA to Decide on Approval of Genetically Modified Mosquito Release

Posted on May 30, 2012

A good majority of people out there have probably been plagued by mosquitoes and their bites at some point, and numerous persons are probably resigned to the fact that mosquito bites are simply a fact of life.  But this might not be the case if a team of scientists has their way.

A British biotech firm known as Oxitec has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to release genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West and surrounding environs.  Millions of mosquitoes are intended to be released in total.  The intent is to stop dengue fever and other diseases by cutting down on a mosquito’s lifecycle and thus the entire mosquito population.

It work like this:  Oxitec has designed a species of male mosquito that dies soon after the bug hatches.  Female mosquitoes, the only type of mosquito that bites human beings, would theoretically breed with these genetically modified insects and create future generations that would die before becoming disease-carrying adults.

Environmental groups and various locals are opposed to the idea, however, going so far as to send a letter to the state’s governor asking for the experiment to be stopped.  They think that Oxitec has failed to notify the public of the risks that genetically modified mosquitoes pose and that the local ecosystem and food chain could be disrupted.

There’s no word on when the FDA expects to make a decision.

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