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2 Billion Genetically Altered Mosquitoes Will Be Released to Fight Against Disease

Billions of Genetically modified mosquitoes are expected to be released within the next two years as part of an expanded version of an Environmental Protection Agency study. The study is receiving criticism from advocacy groups that believe it could be dangerous.The EPA said in an announcement on Monday that it will extend its current study into reducing the population of the Aedes aegypti, a mosquito commonly found in the United States, through April 2024.

The EPA is looking to broaden its work to Monroe County in Florida and four counties in California: Stanislaus, Fresno, Tulare, and San Bernardino.Under the project’s revised Experimental Use Permit (EUP), the EPA is permitted to release nearly 2.5 billion Aedes aegypti mosquitoes containing a protein called Tetracycline Trans-Activator Variant into the wild. The project aims to reduce the transmission of harmful diseases commonly carried by mosquitoes such as dengue, Zika, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Developed by the biotechnology company Oxitec, these new male mosquitoes mate with the existing females in hopes that their offspring will not survive long enough to mature. Rajeev Vaidyanathan, director of U.S. programs for Oxford-based Oxitec, told The San Bernardino Sun that “only the male larvae survive to adulthood. All the female progeny die as larvae. So this is a way of controlling an invasive mosquito species.

In 2021, millions of Genetically altered mosquitoes were released in the Florida Keys after the EPA received approval for the pilot project that May. To start the experiment, six boxes of the Genetically modified mosquito were placed in various locations across 120 miles in the Keys, per the report. Meredith Fensom, Oxitec’s head of global public affairs, said last May that the mosquitoes being studied in the experiment emitted a fluorescent light to help easily identify them when they are captured.

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