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Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage last week as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec moved ahead with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.
Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti — a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus — critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.
Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitoes were placed in six locations in Monroe County last week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”
Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency — which approved the project last May — to “halt this live experiment immediately.”