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Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Be An Alternative To Insecticide Spray In Florida

There has been an introduction of genetically altered mosquitoes in the states.

The first release of these mosquitoes began in Florida.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Be An Alternative To Insecticide Spray In Florida

These are believed to be a safer alternative to spraying pesticides for mosquito control.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes To Be An Alternative To Insecticide Spray In Florida

A more effective tool against pest control.

Polling was carried out in 2016 in which this theory of using genetically modified mosquitoes for pest control gained the support of the majority.

According to officials, this approach could prove to be efficient as the conventional methods of pesticide spray are gradually getting ineffective.

This proposition is given a trial by the British biotechnology company Oxitec. The company has placed small boxes size of a basketball in six localities of Keys in Florida.The boxes were filled with water.

In approximately a week’s time, male Aedesaegypti mosquitoes will start propagating from the boxes.

A unique approach for tackling an everyday menace.

Executive director of the Florida Keys mosquito district, Andrea Leal, implied being hopeful that this approach will help in controlling mosquitoes and keeping any chances of disease transmission much lower than the threshold limit.

According to the executive director, the options for mosquito control are narrowing, and such unexampled ideas are the need of the moment.

Opposing thoughts to the idea.

However, opposing views against the proposition continue. Experts are of the opinion that this can have an unprecedented effect on the ecological balance.

As stated by them, these concerns are being addressed by neither the authorities nor the company.

Dana Perls, program manager at Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group based out of Washington, D.C, opposes the trial stating, interfering with an ecological system always has consequences.

The science behind the approach.

The basis of the trial, as explained by Andrea Leal, is that female mosquito bite and cause diseases. Male mosquitoes don’t and will be useful in tracking the females.

In the case of this trial, it is aimed that mating between the genetically modified males and females occur followed by laying of eggs.

As a result of genetic alterations, the female mosquitoes arising from such eggs will die prematurely.

Hence with every consecutive generation, the number of disease-causing mosquitoes will reduce, eventually eradicating the race.

Moreover, these mosquitoes carry fluorescent genes that make identification and analysis easier for scientific studies.

Perls expresses concern stating that genetic alteration technologies should be handled with caution as once it is released in nature, they cannot be reversed.

Leal acknowledges the concern since it is a new technology that has been unused as of now. She adds that the Environmental protection agency has scrutinized all the aspects and given approval for the project,which makes them confident to proceed with the trial.

Impact on the health of society.

Aedesaegypti consists of only 4% of the total mosquito population in Keys. However, it caused 70 cases of dengue last year in Keys Largo alone.

It is also a potential carrier of zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

The proposed trial has a limited scope as only six boxes have been placed in various locations of Keys which is estimated to release 12000 mosquitoes. Hence, Leal is of the opinion that this trial is unable to cause any major permanent change in the ecosystem.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kevin Esvelt, who is not associated with the trial suggests, this project doesn’t carry any potential threat to the environmental balance.

Significance of the trial for Keys.

Keys are located in the southern proximity of Florida at a distance of 60 miles from Miami. Keys has a long-standing salt marsh mosquito problem.

This is much more precarious than the conventional Aedesaegypti mosquitoes as they specifically thrive on human blood, as explained by Leal.

Key West experienced a fatal dengue outbreak in 2009-2010. Almost 100 casualties were reported in that incident, followed by which the mosquito control district, in cooperation with Oxitec, committed to formulating new measures to curb the threat.

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