The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded biotech firm Oxitec is currently releasing 150,000 genetically engineered mosquitoes in Florida. If all goes “well,” it will release a billion more over the next two years.
The goal is for the GMO male mosquitoes to mate with natural female mosquitoes and make them infertile – or at least kill their offspring before they reach maturity – in an effort to reduce the overall mosquito population.
“This is a dark moment in history,” says Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth.
“GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes,” she warns in a press release.
There is debate as to whether these “killer” mosquitos can pass on their edited genes to human-biting female mosquitoes.
“The claim was that genes from the release strain would not get into the general population because offspring would die,”‘ said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Jeffrey Powell of tens of millions GMO mosquitoes released in Brazil in 2017.
“That obviously was not what happened.”
Instead, many of the offspring survived – carrying their dad’s “killer” genes – thanks to a certain kind of antibiotic used in factory farming that keeps them alive.
Oxitec uses the antibiotic “tetracycline” as a chemical “kill switch” for its genetically engineered mosquitoes. The parent mosquitoes are fed it to keep them alive despite their lethal genes, with the hope the next generation won’t be able to survive without their “super food.”
“Survival rates of next-generation genetically engineered mosquitoes increase from 3 percent up to 18 percent when fed on industrially farmed meat, which is treated with tetracycline,” the New York Times reported.
“Tetracycline will be present in release areas in discarded takeout, pet food and in some mosquito breeding sites such as septic tanks.”
Oxitec has not provided sufficient evidence that been bitten by, or swallowing, these mosquitoes will be safe. say German researchers.
Instead of reducing the population of disease-triggering mosquitoes, the GMO mosquitoes may actually cause a more “robust population,” according to a Yale study.
“Offspring from the transgenic mosquitoes had not only reproduced, but the population of mosquitoes in Jacobina is now a mix of their original types plus those from Cuba and Mexico, likely leading to a more robust population,” according to the researchers.
“And the population of mosquitoes, after initial decline, had rebounded about 18 months after introduction of genetically modified males. Powell speculated that females had begun to avoid mating with modified males, fueling a rebound in population.”