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Why Would the EPA Permit the Release of Billions of Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes?

Updated May 17, 2024
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You probably think that the world has more than enough mosquitoes. Well, Oxitec doesn't agree. The British biotech firm has gotten EPA approval to release 2.4 billion of the flying insects in California in an effort to get rid of other, more harmful mosquitoes.

It works like this: The new, genetically-modified mosquitoes will mate with an invasive species called Aedes aegypti, which are known to carry diseases like dengue and yellow fever. Because the species being introduced has been developed with a certain protein, all of their offspring with the invasive species will be male – and male mosquitoes don't bite people. The thinking is that eventually, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will no longer be able to spread disease.

According to Oxitec, a trial effort has already been carried out in Florida, with promising results. "Every single larva that carried our gene emerged as an adult male,” said Rajeev Vaidyanathan, director of U.S. programs at Oxitec. “We didn’t have any female emergence.”

More on mosquitoes:

  • Mosquitoes have been on Earth since at least the Triassic Period of 400 million years ago.

  • Mosquitoes tend to bite larger people more frequently because they are bigger targets and they produce more attractants, like lactic acid.

  • Try wearing lighter clothing to keep mosquitoes at bay, as research suggests that at least some mosquito species are attracted to dark clothes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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