Male mosquitoes don't bite people—but Florida Keys residents still have concerns about plans to release 750 million of them in a mosquito control project starting next year. The plan to release the genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes received final approval from local authorities Tuesday, causing an outcry from groups opposed to what they call a "Jurassic Park experiment," CNN reports. British biotech firm Oxitec says the "OX5034" modified male mosquitoes produce female offspring that die in the larval stage—and male ones that pass on the modified genes, drastically reducing populations of Aedes aegypti and the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika and dengue fever, without using pesticides.
The Florida Keys project and another one in Texas will be the first time GM mosquitoes have been released in the US, though Oxitec says a trial in Brazil reduced Aedes aegypti numbers by 95%, Fox reports. Opponents say the Environmental Protection Agency, which gave the project the OK in May, has failed to seriously analyze the risks, especially to endangered species that might consume the OX5034 mosquitoes. "The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic," says Dana Perls at Friends of the Earth. "This approval is about maximizing Oxitec's profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases." (Read more mosquito stories.)