As we reported previously, Oxitec, a British biotech company, plans to release an experimental mosquito population genetically engineered to combat dengue fever. This is especially unnecessary since there have been no cases of dengue fever reported in the Florida Keys since 2010. The company has been preparing for FDA approval to use Key West as a test population, which is expected to happen within the first two months of 2015.
They aren’t testing in Florida to see whether they can reduce dengue fever in the populations there currently, but rather to see whether they can eradicate the particular breed of mosquito that carries dengue fever. They would do this by releasing GM mosquitoes to breed with the population that carries dengue fever, resulting in offspring that can no longer have offspring.
Of particular concern is the fact that a recent study showed that the same GM mosquitoes released in Brazil did not, in fact, lead to a drop in dengue fever. The number of mosquito eggs fell by an impressive 92% in the city of Jacobina in eastern Brazil—but it did not lead to a drop in the incidence of dengue itself. In fact, there are concerns in Brazil that GM mosquitoes could make dengue outbreaks worse, since a second more invasive species could move into the ecological niche left by lowered populations of the target species.