What could possibly go wrong? The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has just approved a plan by a British biotech company to release 1 billion genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys this year.
These mosquitoes will be male only. Only females bite people. The new mosquitoes will carry a new gene that will be passed on to female offspring that will cause them to die while they’re still larvae. The result would be that the
Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is capable of transmitting Zika and West Nile viruses as well as dengue and yellow fever, would be 90% reduced.
But many folks in Florida object. They worry that genetic engineering would generate unintended consequences and ought to be tested further to guarantee that the whole scheme won’t backfire and somehow damage the balance of nature that provides that birds, frogs, fish and bats count on mosquitoes for food.
Meanwhile, while I read all about this, I was scratching a big welt on the back of my neck. It was planted there by a mosquito that snuck up behind me for a sip of fresh blood. The result is an itch that won’t go away. The creation of mosquitoes that don’t bite would seem like a welcome draining of the swamp.
Meanwhile, up at Mayville State University in eastern North Dakota, a biology professor is leading a study delving into mosquito biology. The professor worries, as do the folks in Florida, that the elimination of mosquitoes would damage the ecosystem. The study has trapped and identified 25 species of mosquitoes in the Traill and Steele counties of North Dakota among the 200 species in the United States and 3,000 in the world.
The Mayville study will also show the extent that some mosquitoes are seen on mammals, birds, amphibians or reptiles and the extent to which diseases can be transferred from birds and animals to human beings. The West Nile disease is one of those diseases.
I am cheering for the Florida project – eliminating female mosquitoes that bite humans.
What the worriers and doubters seem to have missed is that male mosquitoes (that don’t bite) will be unharmed. This means the fish, frogs, bats, and birds won’t starve. They’ll have plenty of male mosquitoes to eat, the ecosystem will remain intact and nature will remain balanced.
Three cheers for the balance of nature, draining the swamp and no more mosquito bites. What could possibly go wrong?