Should we really be doing this ? Image Credit: milkyway1315 / Pixabay
The experimental release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes has been given the go-ahead.
The questionable endeavour, which will see around 750 million of the insects released in the US state of Florida, has been condemned by environmentalist groups as a 'Jurassic Park experiment'.
The insects, which have been bred by British-based biotechnology company Oxitec, have been designed to help reduce the mosquito population in the state and in so doing, reduce the risk of spreading deadly diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis.
The key to the experiment lies in having the mosquitoes carry a certain protein which, when passed down to female offspring, will prove lethal. Only female mosquitoes actually bite, so by selectively reducing their numbers, scientists hope that the spread of disease will be massively reduced too.
With the release of the insects now greenlit by local authorities, the experiment will begin in 2021.
The mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys.
"The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic," environmental group Friends of the Earth said in a statement in response to the news.
Oxitec, meanwhile, argues that there is no risk and that this isn't the first such experiment.
"We have released over a billion of our mosquitoes over the years," said one scientist. "There is no potential for risk to the environment or humans."