The plan was set in motion last June. In the midst of the earlier months of the pandemic, the Florida Department of Agriculture approved a plan for the Monroe County Mosquito Control District to release genetically modified mosquitos throughout the keys. The plan, to release male genetically modified mosquitos engineered by the British firm Oxitec, has been years in the making.
It’s been delayed by a debacle a few years ago in Brazil and an inconclusive test on Stock Island in the Keys. There have also been numerous efforts by residents of the Keys to stop the lab creations from being released in a real-world paradise. But alas it begins.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District says, "As we are seeing the development of resistance to some of our current control methods, we are in need of new tools to combat this mosquito". And with that, the phase 1 plan to release 144,000 genetically modified male mosquitoes in the Florida Keys is underway.
If all goes according to plan, the sterile males will mate with blood-sucking females and populations will die out. If things don’t go according to plan, that’s where it could get ugly. In the original failed Brazilian experiment populations decreased over the short term, however, in what’s been coined the Jurassic Park effect, nature found a way, and what was called a new “super mosquito” was born. These mosquitos proved to be even more resilient against traditional mosquito control methods than their predecessors.
After the initial failure, Oxitec went back to the lab and took another crack at it. The result? The most recent study out of Brazil with the current version of the genetic critters showed a 95% reduction in mosquito populations after 13 weeks. This is why it was considered by Monroe and approved by Florida’s Agricultural Department. Since it’s happening, let’s hope the same holds true here. First for the residents of the Keys and second because we know what happens in the Keys won’t likely stay just in the Keys for long.
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