The British biotech company is going to let out genetically modified insects in Florida.
The objective of the experiment, as declared, is combatting dengue and chikungunya, as well as damaging agricultural pests.
Disease spread by the Aedes mosquitoes though had only 11 patients infecterd with chikungunya in 2014, and the CDC states that it is rare to find a case of dengue fever in the United States.
Oxitec has already released GM olive flies into the Cayman Islands environment as a way to combat wild pests that damaged crops. But, as there are concerns for the olive flies pesticide resistance developing into the 'wild' populations, the release of GM mosquitos are also posing questions of risk.
The approach to containing problems in the wild for the GM fly is the same as the mosquito in Florida. Oxitec has developed a 'kill switch' that the GM insect can introduce to the wild female during the mating process. In turn, the female offspring mainly die as larvae.
The risks and potential benefits of GM insects are disputed.
Some concerns have been raised about the "tinkering" with Mother Nature and the after affects, which potentially will be impossible to reverse once out in the wild.
The area of GM insects has little to no rules governing the procedures taking place in the labs. It is also interesting to note that Oxitec has released GM mosquitos into the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil and is developing GM agricultural pests, jointly with Syngenta, the seed company. Furthermore, Oxitec "chose a British Overseas Territory with no biosafety law (Cayman Islands) as the site for the first open releases of GM insects in the world".
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