Today, the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) gave its support for a biotech company to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys in an effort to stop the spread of diseases, including Zika.
The “green light” comes after months long debates, including comments from the general public.
Biotech company Oxitec submitted a draft of its plan in March to release thousands of genetically modified male Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes into the area. This is the species of mosquito that carries and transmits Zika, dengue, and other nasty diseases. But Oxitec’s version of these mosquitoes come with a genetic twist: a gene that wipes out any offspring they produce with wild female mosquitoes before the baby mosquitoes reach reproductive age.
The hope is that this will curb the local mosquito population, reducing the risk of diseases spreading.
After reviewing the draft, the FDA has called the proposal to have a “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).” However, this doesn’t mean Oxitec is free to release the mosquitoes whenever. Oxitec now needs to gain additional approval from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, who will vote on the proposal this fall.
That said, the FDA approval is a major step forward for the use of this type of GMO mosquito in general. That’s especially true given the recent news of a (so-far) small outbreak of Zika in the Miami area, which health officials say was transmitted by local mosquitoes.