The local government of Florida has officially approved a plan that sounds no less than a plot straight out of a sci-fi movie. It is fair to say that technology today has made our lives convenient and comfortable. Not just that, the advancing technology has also enabled us to craft a smarter and safer world for future generations.
That most certainly holds true when it comes to the approval of the proposal put forward by Oxitech, a biotech company, that is all set to release almost a billion gene-hacked mosquitoes in Florida over the next two years.
Why, you must be wondering? Well, mosquitoes are a primary carrier for a number of diseases including yellow fever, dengue, malaria and others. The proposal that took years waiting for approval, aims to specifically genetically modify the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, so that the female dies as a larva. While the authorities are aiming at reducing the risk of yellow fever by genetically modifying mosquitoes, people are concerned with the effects of the decision.
Environmentalists and other concerned individuals are mainly worried about the environmental aspects of the project. According to them, introducing genetically modified mosquitoes can have an adverse effect on the nearby ecosystems. Some go as far as saying that disrupting the ways of nature never end up fruitful.
On the contrary, Oxitec claims the project to have no negative effects on the environment. Years of research and an investigation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency supports that claim. Nonetheless, one claim is apparently not enough to convince the nature-loving Florida natives. A petition had been set up against Oxitec that has 23 thousand signatures.
For most people, the bigger question is whether spending so much money on a project that looks like the work of a Hollywood director really worth it? Especially in such currently difficult economic conditions. The answer to that question depends greatly upon the priorities of the local government. The government of Florida is primarily aiming at lowering the mosquito population to minimize the risk of diseases. Investing so much in a project like this in such economic fragility however may or may not be a good idea.
How the project of genetically modified mosquitoes will bid against the natural eco systems in the long run is unknown, but the project itself is a manifestation of how fast and how smart we have become as a society to think of ways to tackle healthcare problems.
As Grey Frandsen, Oxitec’s CEO puts it: “This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases,”