Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in CA

Gov.+Officials+evaluating+if+GM+Mosquitoes+should+be+released+in+CA%0A (free stock photos)

Gov. Officials evaluating if GM Mosquitoes should be released in CA

Imagine waking up and seeing a swarm of lab-grown mosquitoes in your backyard. How would you feel? This can soon become a reality in California. On March 7, the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the biotech company Oxitec to deploy genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes over 29,400 acres of California land. The company plans to start with the city of Visalia in Tulare County and eventually go outwards to the San Bernardino, Fresno, and Stanislaus counties. These emancipations are scheduled to happen at 48 different locations, with 30,000 mosquitoes released per week. However, the company is limited to releasing 3.5 million mosquitoes per week. 


I’m sure you’re wondering why they’re doing this. Essentially, the company’s main goal is to get rid of deadly diseases carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, for example, Yellow Fever, Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya. To do this, they have genetically modified the Aedes aegypti to carry a “terminating gene”. In other words, GM mosquitoes have a death gene that will kill their female offspring. The Oxitec scientists  hope that their mosquitoes will mate with the wild population so that only the male offspring will survive. Then, these male mosquitoes will continue to carry the death gene to other females. If their plan works, the Aedes aegypti population will collapse, and the diseases will be eliminated.

And they have already gotten to work—right now, Oxitec is hiring technicians. However, there is alarming concern among the residents regarding this plan. In addition, the state regulators plan a rigorous scientific evaluation, which will be several months long. They have also asked the public to comment and express their opinions before April 19 via email. 


Along with residents, other scientists are also worried. In 2020, five academic scientists expressed through the LA Times how they “are concerned that current government oversight and scientific evaluation of GM mosquitoes do not ensure their responsible deployment.”  They’re concerned that such a trial is hard to control,  and that the risks of this experiment are unknown. Other scientists are concerned that the release of these mosquitoes could create “hybrids,” which may be far more dangerous for humans. To make matters worse, Oxitec has never released or published data from their previous studies that were conducted in the Florida Keys. 


This is still a developing story with more to come on the way!