U.S. Company Plans to Release 2.4 Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

he Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the release of 2.4 billion genetically-modified mosquitoes in California and Florida. The mosquitoes, created by biotech firm Oxitec, will be non-biting Aedes aegypti males engineered to only produce viable male offspring, per the company. Oxitec says the plan will reduce numbers of the invasive Aedes aegypti, which can carry diseases like Zika, yellow fever and dengue.

Female mosquitoes will die, while males will reproduce and spread the self-limiting gene to the next generation, eventually leading to population declines. While these diseases aren’t yet spreading in California, the invasive insect has been flagged as a growing risk as their numbers increase across the state, reports the Guardian’s Gabrielle Canon. 

“Given the growing health threat this mosquito poses across the U.S., we’re working to make this technology available and accessible,” Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen says in a statement. “These pilot programs, wherein we can demonstrate the technology’s effectiveness in different climate settings, will play an important role in doing so.”