While the attention of the American public has rightfully been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, its associated racial disparities, and broader issues of structural racism, the US government made a serious public health decision — one that could affect our health and our environment for generations to come.
Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency approved the release of genetically modified mosquitoes. Under a 2-year Experimental Use Permit, a company called Oxitec has been granted permission to release over 1 billion genetically modified mosquitoes across 6,600 acres in Florida and Texas.
Oxitec hopes to demonstrate through field trials that their latest GM mosquito strain can reduce local populations of Aedes aegypti — the mosquito species that transmits dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, and the Zika virus. When males of this GM mosquito strain (OX5034) are continually released to mate in the wild, they pass on a lethal gene to their female offspring that causes female larvae to die before they can develop into biting adults. Male mosquito offspring survive, but male mosquitoes don’t bite and without viable females, the population...