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Scientists in Florida will release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild. The aim is to reduce the number of existing mosquitoes that have diseases like Zika virus, yellow fever and dengue fever. The plan is to release the mosquitoes next year in the Florida Keys. This is a long chain of tropical islands stretching 170km south of the southern tip of Florida. The modified mosquitoes are all male. They carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach biting age. It is only female mosquitoes that feed on blood and bite humans. Males only feed on nectar from flowers. Over time, scientists hope the disease-carrying population of mosquitoes in the area will fall.



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Environmental groups are not happy with the plan to release the genetically modified mosquitoes. One group called it a "Jurassic Park experiment". It said Florida was "a testing ground for mutant bugs". Many environmentalists warn that the project could cause damage to local ecosystems that could never be reversed. They say the experiment could even create a new super-species of mosquito that is resistant to insecticides. The environmental group Friends of the Earth said: "The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic." The company releasing the mosquitoes said there was no risk.

Sources:

  • https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2020/08/21/florida-to-release-genetically-modified-mosquitoes-in-the-keys
  • https://www.sciencenews.org/article/genetically-modified-mosquitoes-florida-test-release
  • https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53856776

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