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Pesticides

US EPA green-lights genetically modified mosquito

by Britt E. Erickson
May 8, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 18

 

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Credit: Shutterstock
Oxitec plans to release genetically modified mosquitoes in the US.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted UK-based Oxitec an experimental use permit to test whether releasing genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can reduce the population of the pest, which transmits diseases such as Zika, chikungunya, and dengue. The company plans to release male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to produce a protein that prevents their female offspring from surviving. The experiment will be conducted for 2 years in Florida beginning this summer and in Texas starting next year. Oxitec has completed similar tests in Brazil that the company says successfully suppressed the wild Aedes aegypti population. “Our aim is to empower governments and communities of all sizes to effectively and sustainably control these disease-spreading mosquitoes without harmful impact on the environment and without complex, costly operations,” Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen says in a statement. The US Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2016 that Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquito will not have significant impacts on the environment. In 2017, the FDA transferred regulatory jurisdiction for the technology to the EPA. Federal permit in hand, Oxitec is now seeking approval from state and local regulators.

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