Genetically modified mosquitoes may be released in California next year

Representational imagePhoto byЕгор КамелевonUnsplash

In March this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved plans from Oxitec to release billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida and California between 2022 and 2024 to limit the transmission of harmful diseases such as dengue, Zika, and yellow fever.

The mosquitoes were supposed to be released in June, However, The Department of Pesticide Regulation has already delayed the release of the mosquitoes as DPR’s review of Oxitec’s technology includes a scientific evaluation and a public comment period. Oxitec’s Dr. Kevin Gorman said:

There are ways of modifying mosquitoes or other insects so that they overtake a population, and once they’re released it’s a bit like a genie out of a bottle — you can’t put them back in — but that’s not us. What we have is a technology that dies out, it’s destined to die, and that means that in just a few weeks and a few generations after we’ve released our mosquitoes, they’re gone.

Oxitec’s engineered males carry a gene that is lethal to female offspring. Researchers observed 22,000 larvae taken from the areas where the males were released. None of the female larvae that were the offspring of the modified males lived into adulthood. Male offspring carried the gene and passed it on to half of their progeny. As each generation passed, more females died, reducing the A. aegypti population.

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