Oxitec Mosquitoes

Oxitec Plans to Release Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Why is a US Company Releasing Mosquitoes in California?

If there were an annual award for the most annoying summer pest, it would go to mosquitoes about 9 times out of 10 (ants are a fair runner-up, especially in Santa Clarita). After all, they suck blood, spread mosquito-borne diseases, and kill over a million people worldwide each year. For World Health Day in 2014, the World Health Organization even released a snappy slogan warning about the illnesses transmitted by these blood-sucking fliers: “small bite, big threat.”

Mosquitoes also don’t play fair when it comes to selecting a target. They are drawn to the bacteria that live on your skin, and some people happen to give off a very attractive scent. Sorry, some of us are just natural mosquito magnets! And no – eating garlic or using natural repellants won’t help.

So, considering how dangerous mosquitoes are to humans (though admittedly essential to the environment), why is Oxitec, a US-owned but UK-based biotech company, engineering the creation and release of 2.4 billion genetically modified mosquitoes in California and Florida? Our Santa Clarita mosquito control experts are here with the 411! 

Aedes aegypti

SoCal’s mosquito problem has definitely worsened in recent years. Learn why by reading “Why Are We Seeing So Many Mosquitoes in Santa Clarita?”

Why Are Mosquitoes Being Released? Why Is This Good News?

The release of these genetically modified mosquitoes is part of an expanded effort to guard against the transmission of diseases. Last March, the Environmental Protection Agency cleared Oxitec to release 2.4 billion non-biting Aedes aegypti males that have been engineered to produce only male offspring. The female mosquitoes will die, while the males continue propagating and spreading the self-limiting gene until the population declines. 

Oxitec’s game plan is to reduce the number of this invasive breed that tends to carry diseases like Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and other dangerous health threats.

Curious about the gnats and mosquitoes hunting for your blood?  Find out what may be biting you in “No-See-Ums & Ankle Biters: How to Get Rid of Them.”

When Did the Experiment Start & Has It Been Successful?

Oxitec has already started its experiment in the Florida Keys. In 2021, over 144,000 genetically modified mosquitoes were released to minimize the spread of deadly and dangerous diseases. Unfortunately, there have been few reports on whether the experiment was successful.

How Do Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Affect Santa Clarita

While many deadly mosquito-borne diseases have yet to hit California, our state has been flagged due to the increasing number of Aedes aegypti.

You might have noticed an increase in tiny (but itchy!) little bites around your legs and ankles this summer. Don’t worry; it is very unlikely that the mosquitoes in your yard carry dangerous diseases. However, that could change as our local mosquito population continues to grow.

Struggling with itchy mosquito bites? Review “5 Home Remedies to Soothe Mosquito Bites.”

How Is Oxitec’s Plan Expected to Help?

The Oxitec mosquitoes are designed with a genetic marker that allows scientists to identify their altered Aedes aegypti amidst the wild populations.

Oxitec claims its genetically modified male mosquitoes will “find and mate with invasive female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes” and that this mating process will spark the reduction of the invasive population. Reducing the overall population of the mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases is Oxitec’s end goal.  

What Critics Say About the Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Despite cautious planning and extensive research, many scientists and specialists have differing – and sometimes heated – opinions about Oxitec’s plan. For example, The Guardian reports that opponents are concerned about the mosquitoes coming in contact with Tetracycline, an antibiotic used in agriculture, that might help the female mosquitoes survive.

Here are some opinions by critics who are concerned about the upcoming release of 2.4 billion genetically modified mosquitoes:

  • “Once released into the environment, genetically engineered mosquitoes cannot be recalled,” Dr. Robert Gould, president of San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, told Mercury News. “Rather than forge ahead with an unregulated, open-air genetic experiment, we need precautionary action, transparent data, and appropriate risk assessments.”
  • “There’s no such thing as 100 percent effective in science,” stated Dana Perls, the food and technology program manager from Friends of the Earth, to Guardian reporters. “Yet the public is being asked to trust that Oxitec’s experiment will work and no [genetically-engineered] female mosquitoes will survive. But how do we know that?”

With the mosquito population increasing, it is important to have a reliable pest control service to help keep your family and home safe. Call Santa Clarita’s #1 pest control service, No Bugs Termite and Pest Control Inc., at (661) 294-0206 if you have questions about mosquito control or other pest concerns.