Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released for the first time in the United States, taking flight in the Florida Keys in a pilot program intended to reduce the spread of deadly diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and the Zika virus.
After an odyssey spanning more than a decade to secure regulatory approval, British-based biotechnology firm Oxitec, along with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD)launched the project in hope of reducing the Aedes aegypti species that spread the diseases.
While Oxitec and local authorities have high hopes for the program, local residents and environmental groups worry that not enough is known about the long-term effects of the new technology.
Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency granted an experimental use permit (EUP) to Oxitec on May 1.
A half-dozen boxes containing the OX5034 mosquito created by Oxitec have been deployed in the Florida Keys, an archipelago stretching 120 miles (195 km) off the southern tip of the state.