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Why one billion lab grown mosquitoes are being released in Florida?

Would you take a cardboard box full of mosquito larvae and allow it to breed in your garden? Probably not. But six Florida residents have done just that. According to a Vice report, they aren’t breeding normal mosquitoes but genetically modified creatures called OX5034 which were made in a London laboratory. Initially, the plan is to release 144,000 mosquitoes (over a 12 week period) in lower Florida Keys.

Florida is home to some dangerous insecticide resistant mosquitoes. To tackle their menace, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District spent a significant portion of their $14 million budget on a deal with British biotechnology firm Oxitec. Together, they plan to release as many as 1 billion mosquitoes across 6000 acres in Florida and Texas.

The state of Florida is also suffering from the wrath of Aedes aegypti mosquito which can carry diseases like dengue, Zika virus and yellow fever. “The Aedes aegypti mosquito makes up about 4 percent of the mosquito population in the Keys but is responsible for virtually all mosquito-borne diseases transmitted to humans,” the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District said in a statement.

Even though it may sound like a good idea, it didn’t sit well with the citizens initially. A huge portion of people expressed their mistrust and the project has been pending since 2011. “I don’t trust this company and I can’t trust their technology. I wanted to get behind it. I really did. But from the beginning, something was off. They were talking about a sterile insect that would still produce offspring. How was that possible? It just didn’t add up,” Mara Daly, a Florida resident told Vice.

In a similar incident, almost 1000 feral cats (since 2011) have been released into the streets of Chicago by The Tree House Humane society. So far, they have been successful in managing the problem of rats in the city.

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