Florida authorities plan to release at least 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys beginning in 2021.
The widely criticized move is said to be taking place to determine if a genetically altered mosquito is better than the option of spraying insecticides to control Aedes aegypti, which typically carry diseases such as chikungunya, yellow fever, Zika, and more, Fox News reported.
What are the details?
Local authorities on Tuesday gave the project the official go-ahead, prompting criticism from local residents and environmental advocacy groups alike.
The controversial project already received state and federal approval.
In a Wednesday statement, Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, said, "With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida — the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change — the administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a 'Jurassic Park' experiment."
"Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong?" Hanson added. "We don't know, because EPA unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed."
'95 percent suppression'
In May, the EPA approved the use of British company Oxitec's genetically engineered mosquitoes.
The genetically modified male mosquito is called OX5034. The mosquito breed has been genetically altered to ensure the larval deaths of female mosquitoes, which bite and transmit diseases. Males feed only on nectar and do not spread disease. The end result would be a steady reduction in the Aedes aegypti population.
Environmental authorities reportedly attempted to exhaust other avenues before opting for the genetically engineered mosquitoes, including using pesticides and introducing into the local ecological system fish that feast on mosquitoes.
Nathan Rose, director of regulatory affairs at Oxitec, told UPI, "We have shown that the release of mosquitoes in a neighborhood results in 95 percent suppression compared to areas with no release."