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What is a genetically modified mosquito and why are 750 million being released in Florida?

FINAL approval has been awarded to a plan to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into Florida Keys in the US.

But the controversial plans has divided opinion – here's everything you need to know.

What is a GMO mosquito?

A GMO mosquito is a genetically modified mosquito, GMO stands for genetically modified organism.

The scientifically tuned insect, named named OX5034 is modified to produce female offspring that die at the larval stage.

Only female mosquitoes bite for blood, which they need for their eggs.

Male mosquitoes only feed on nectar.

When will 750 million mosquitoes be released in Florida?

The blood-sucking beasts will be released in 2021 and 2022.

The aim of the project is to to test if a genetically modified mosquito is a viable alternative to spraying insecticides to control the spread of disease.

It's particularly focussed on the the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry several deadly diseases, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

What diseases do mosquitoes spread?

Some of the diseases spread by mosquitoes are:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue, West Nile virus,
  • Chikungunya,
  • Yellow fever,
  • Filariasis,
  • Tularemia
  • Firofilariasis
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Saint Louis Encephalitis
  • Western Equine Encephalitis
  • Eastern Equine Encephalitis
  • Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis
  • Ross River Fever
  • Barmah Forest Fever
  • La Crosse encephalitis
  • Zika fever

However, the project is particularly focussed on the Aedes aegypti mosquito, who are known for spreading diseases like Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Why is the project controversial?

Locals and activists have accused local government of wasting money on a "Jurassic Park experiment" in a time of national emergency.

A policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, in a statement released Wednesday: "With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida — the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change — the administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment.

"Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong?

"We don't know, because EPA unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed," she added.

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