Mutant Mosquitos in the Florida Keys?
Mutant mosquitoes may soon be populating the Florida Keys by the thousands—on purpose.
Yes, you read correctly. The Keys, already plagued by year-round mosquito swarms, are actually considering paying for even more. Sounds crazy, right?
However, the plan isn’t all insanity. The mosquitoes are a genetically modified breed developed by a British company named Oxitec. Oxitec claims that when this special species breeds with the native population, it will cause the eggs and larvae to self-destruct. What’s more, close to 100% of the released mosquitoes would be male (it’s the females that cause the annoying, itchy bites).
The proposal comes after a recent outbreak of the deadly Dengue Fever, which is transmitted by the bloodsucking insects. Proponents claim it’s a viable alternative to traditional pesticides, which can be harmful to human and environment alike. Oxitec released millions of these modified mosquitoes to the Cayman Islands in 2010 and called the results hugely successful.
Unsurprisingly, some Key natives are skeptical about the introduction of a mutant mosquito to their area. They point to past failures and mishaps involving genetically modified organisms. Introduction of new species frequently results in unintended consequences, leading to new mutations or destabilizing the food chain. Some citizens are organizing a petitions and protest against the movement.
Furthermore, there haven’t been any cases of Dengue Fever since the 2009 outbreak. This provides ammunition to opponents who urge caution. Since people don’t seem to be in immediate danger, they call for more research into the potential effects of the mutant species on people and the ecosystem.