Our sci-fi future just got a whole lot closer to becoming a reality, after the Food and Drug Administration gave the okay to a field trial that would release genetically modified Zika-killing mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
On Friday, the FDA released a final environmental assessment of the trial, finding that it “will not have significant impacts on the environment.” The project, led by Oxitec, a biotech company that focuses on insect control, calls for the release of thousands of genetically engineered male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The lab insects are bred so that over time they could kill off much of the local mosquito population by passing on a gene fatal to any offspring they have with wild females.
This is not the last hurdle Oxitec faces in turning its dream of disease-obliterating mosquitos into reality. The company will have to win the approval of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which plans to vote on the proposal after issuing a survey testing local sentiment of Keys residents this fall. Whilepast surveys have shown the project to have a majority of support, it has also had vocal naysayers. Some fear the environmental impacts that removing the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a non-native species, might have. Others have more imaginative objections, such as conspiracy theories about the project.
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