The Real Reason Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes Will Be Released In Florida

As if things weren't bad enough, now word comes in that Florida will soon be releasing millions of genetically-engineered mosquitoes. In fact, 750 million of them, according to Health magazine over the next couple of years. Eek! Why would they do that? Doesn't the state, and the world, have enough mosquitoes already? How could it possibly be a good idea to think of adding more? 

Plus, "genetically modified," isn't that a bad thing? Like, that scary bad corn that's trying to kill us all (although it seems GMOs' bad rep may be a teensy bit exaggerated). Actually, the phrase "genetically-modified mosquitoes" conjures up images of kaiju monsters (Skeetera! No!), which is... well, just about typical for the kind of year we've been having. Obviously the End Times are at hand, and the state of Florida has just chosen to accelerate things in a particularly unpleasant way.

Well, actually, no, it's not like that. It turns out that these mosquitoes have been genetically-modified in a good way — yes, this is actually possible. They are all male, and were bred to carry a protein that, according to creator Oxitec (a company, not an individual), will "inhibit the survival of their female offspring when they mate with wild female mosquitoes." Female mosquitoes are the bloodsuckers and are therefore the ones capable of transmitting deadly diseases such as Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and malaria — as well as being extremely annoying.

Why not everyone is thrilled about these new and improved mosquitoes

While at first Florida's plan seems like an absolutely terrible idea — 750 million more mosquitoes! — the explanation that these insects were essentially created to neutralize a new generation of mozzies makes introducing them into the dengue-plagued Keys seem kind of brilliant, instead. Well, maybe so, maybe no. According to Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, the Environmental Protection Agency "unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks" so no one really knows if and how things could go wrong with these GMOsquitoes. She also criticized the administration for using tax dollars and governmental resources to fund what she calls "a Jurassic Park experiment." 

Others have expressed fears that the 750 million mosquitoes could accidentally include a few (or more) of the biting female kind, while some concerned citizens have even brought up a horrifying "what if" scenario in which the new mosquitoes manage to interbreed with the current crop of mosquitoes in such a way that they create a new strain of hybrid, insecticide-resistant bugs that will worsen the spread of disease. Darn it, maybe we do need to start prepping for doomsday, after all. Just be sure to bring a supply of mosquito netting into the bunker.