(Derrick Broze) The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in 20 US states and Washington D.C – what are the implications of this mass experiment?
On 3 November, the agency told biotechnology start-up MosquitoMate that it could release the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis into the environment as a tool against the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Lab-reared mosquitoes will deliver the bacterium to wild mosquito populations.
The decision — which the EPA has not formally announced — allows the company, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky, to release the bacteria-infected mosquitoes in 20 US states and Washington DC.
The company claims that trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands have reduced mosquito populations by 90%, calling the success “an unprecedented level” of human control over nature. (The World Health Organization, for it’s [sic]part, has stated that while the technology “has demonstrated the ability to reduce the [mosquito] populations in small-scale field trials” there is still “an absence of data on epidemiological impact.”)