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Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in Florida this year

The EPA has approved extending a pilot program for two more years that would allow millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to be released in the Florida Keys.

Heather Crawford

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Published: 8:59 PM EDT April 28, 2022
Updated: 11:26 PM EDT April 28, 2022

They’re created in a lab with the goal of suppressing mosquitoes that transmit diseases. That's according to Oxitec, the U.K.-based biotechnology company developing them.

Aedes aegypti is the most important global vector of dengue, which is a devastating virus, Chikungunya, and Zika virus,” said Rajeev Vaidyanathan, Director of U.S. Programs at Oxitec. 

He says the common name is the yellow fever mosquito, and it continues to be an important vector of yellow fever virus in South America and in Africa

Since 2021, millions of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been strategically released in Monroe County as part of the Oxitec Mosquito Project in the Florida Keys. In March, the EPA approved the release of 2.4 billion more in Monroe County and California over the next two years under an experimental use permit. They are designed to kill biting females before they mature.

“The male mosquitoes, they don't bite," said Chad Huff with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. "They never take a blood meal from a human at all. They survive on nectar. They don't even have the mouth parts that make it able to take blood. It's really just using the instinctive knowledge of the male mosquito and finding a female, and then limiting the number of offspring that those females are able to have.”

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