A bioengineering company from the UK has released the first batch of genetically modified itchy boyz into the air of Florida.
After a decade of pushback from regulators and the public, Oxitec‘s mutant swarms are buzzing about and biting people willy nilly, but mostly nilly. The modified mozzies are part of an experiment that hopes to suppress the wild Aedes aegypti mosquito population, a breed known for carrying diseases like Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. This is the first time genetically modified mosquitos have been trialled in the U.S., but it’s not a first for genetically modified insects in general. In 2017, a cloud of GM diamondback moths (also developed by Oxitec) was released in New York state to deal with some crop-destroying moths made by God. No one cared about that, but the new lab-engineered mosquitoes have got everyone in the Florida Keys worried about disruptions to the ecosystem that might ruin cheeseburgers in paradise. Oxitec previously field-tested their insects in Brazil, Panama, the Cayman Islands, and Malaysia with no negative effect, so Jimmy Buffet should be fine. Aedes aegypti represent 4% of the Floridian mosquito population, but they’re the ones that transmit deadly disease to humans, so Oxitec’s super-mozzies have been called in to fuck them up.