To reduce the spread of dangerous diseases including dengue, Zika, and yellow fever, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed plans from Oxitec in March of this year to issue billions of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida and California between 2022 and 2024.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation has already postponed the deployment of the mosquitoes from June as part of its investigation of Oxitec’s technology, which also includes a scientific assessment and a period for public feedback. Dr. Kevin Gorman of Oxitec said:
“There are techniques to change mosquitoes or other insects so they overwhelm a population, and when they’re out its kind of like releasing a genie from a bottle—you can’t bring them back in. However, that’s not what we do. We have a technology that is designed to fail; as a result, our mosquitoes will disappear within a few generations and a couple of weeks of being released.”
The males created by Oxitec contain a gene that is harmful to their female offspring. 22,000 larvae were collected by researchers from the places where the males were released. The female larvae produced by the transformed males did not produce any offspring that reached adulthood. Half of the offspring of the affected male offspring carried the gene. The population of A. aegypti decreased with each succeeding generation as more females were killed.