Genetically modified mosquitoes released in Florida Keys to reduce spread of diseases

Southeast

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — In a first for the U.S., genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the Florida Keys in an effort to combat persistent insect-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and Zika virus.

U.K.-based Oxitec created the male mosquitoes that carry a gene which kills female offspring. The hope is that by introducing this gene into the wild, the population of biting females will plummet.

Chad Huff from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control district is optimistic about the program.

“This mosquito could very well be a viable control method in the future,” said Huff. “So, these mosquitos — male, non-biting — they emerge, they mate with the local females. None of their female offspring are viable, so they have a male offspring that has the same trait and so for the next generation it does the same things.”

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Huff also addressed critics of genetic modification and whether this method poses a risk to humans.

“I’m not going to debate the ethics of genetically modifying anything,” said Huff. “But I am going to say ‘no.’ This has passed a very rigorous threshold to get to where it is by both the EPA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Several different agencies underneath the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have all reviewed this technology and they’ve all said there is no significant to environment or to people.”

Watch the full interview with Chad Huff in the player above.

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