15:20 GMT04 December 2020
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    The US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to the release of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, in an attempt to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

    Mutant male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, engineered by biotech company Oxitec, will pass on a fatal gene to the females they mate with, in an attempt to ultimately kill off much of the mosquito species population.

    Oxitec claims that they have reduced mosquito populations during trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands, by up to 90%. Fusion reports have called this “an unprecedented level” of human control over nature.

    On Friday, the FDA released an assessment on the project, stating that they have found that it “will not have significant impacts on the environment.”

    All that Oxitec needs now to release their swarm of mutant mosquitos is approval from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, who will vote on the proposal after conducting a survey of local sentiment. A non-binding vote was originally scheduled to take place at the end of August, but has been pushed back to November.

    A survey conducted in June found that most residents oppose the idea of using genetically-modified mosquitoes, but Oxitec hopes that the FDA’s findings will help to win them over. Respondents to the survey who were neutral or supportive of the GMO insects cited a desire to avoid using pesticides.

    There are currently 157 pregnant women in the United States who have tested positive for the Zika virus, which causes microcephaly and other birth defects

    Several companies are currently working on a vaccine for the virus, but aren’t expected to be ready until 2017 at the earliest.


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    GMO, Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes, Genetic Modification, Zika, Food and Drug Administration, Oxitec, Florida
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