With a coalition of environmental groups calling it an expensive "Jurassic Park experiment," the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given final approval to a decade-long plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes – 750 million of them – into the Florida Keys over the course of the next two years.
The effort is seen as a hopeful alternative to the use of insecticides aimed at controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquito species. That particular group of mosquitoes, though only about 1% of the Keys' total mosquito population, is the species that transmits the most dangerous diseases, like Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Scientists have named the genetically modified organism "OX5034" and have designed it to produce female offspring — the gender that bites humans for blood necessary to grow their eggs — that die in the larval stage.
Grey Frandsen, CEO of Oxitec, the company that developed the organism, expressed excitement over the EPA's original approval of their efforts:
"This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases."
The Keys are not the only location that OX5034 will be introduced. Harris County, Texas, will release the mosquito starting next year.