Random Spotter stumbled upon an interesting article, and it prompted me to learn more about the subject. Here it is: A company called Oxitec, owned by US synthetic biology company Intrexon, has developed a mosquito strain whose males engender offspring that die before adulthood, thus before being able to reproduce.
The positive implications are astounding, as the company claims it can reduce Aedes aegypti mosquito populations by up to 90%. Theoretically, it could be possible to nearly wipe out the threat of dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and Zika through insect control.
Most mosquito species used to exist primarily in Africa and tropical Asia just 30 years ago, and many can now be found in almost every corner of the globe. The Asian Tiger mosquito, now resident in at least 6 continents, is believed to be capable of spreading up to 25 known viruses, and outbreaks of little-known diseases, with names like chikungunya and St. Louis encephalitis, are now a common occurrence. So, the risks are not only real; they appear to be growing in frequency and severity.
The Food & Drug Administration agreed recently that an environmental assessment provided by Oxitec shows minimal environmental impact. This nod from the FDA could move Oxitec’s proposal to conduct a field trial in the Florida Keys forward. Mosquitoes are particularly numerous in the southern region of Florida, and success there could signal greater commercial appeal for Oxitec products.
I’m very concerned about the introduction of any genetically modified organism into the environment. But considering the growing risk of disease spread by mosquitoes, in the absence of reliable data to the contrary, Random Spotter thinks the benefits of the genetically modified mosquito outweigh the environmental concerns.