U.S.-owned and U.K.-based company Oxitec created the biologically-engineered mosquitoes, known as the OX5034, to control the Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that carries and spreads diseases, including dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Since the female Aedes aegypti are the disease-carrying gender, Oxitec's mosquito is a genetically-modified version of the Aedes aegypti designed with a gene that prevents female offspring from surviving past the larval stage. All of the Oxitec's mosquitoes are male, which are non-biting since they feed only on nectar.
The plan was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May, according to CNN. On Tuesday, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Board of Commissioners gave the final approval despite pushback from local residents and environmental advocacy groups.
"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," Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. "Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong?"
The number of mosquitoes released may be fewer than 750 million. “The EPA has given a maximum release number, which is what the 750 million mosquitoes refers to; in reality, the number released will be far lower and will be based on the number of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitos found in the release areas,” Dr. Nathan Rose, Oxitec’s Head of Regulatory Affairs, said in a comment to House Beautiful.
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