After more than 5 years of dithering, the Food and Drug Administration has at long last gotten around to allowing the biotech company Oxitec to conduct an investigational trial in the Florida Keys of its genetically engineered version of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This hardy species of mosquito is a vector for transmitting diseases like dengue and Zika virus. The GMO male mosquitoes carry a gene that prevents larva from developing into adults. The company has been releasing their mosquitoes in trials in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands since 2009 where they reduced the populations of these disease carrying vermin by 90 percent. Anti-biotech activists managed to scare 150,000 people to sign a petition against allowing this trial. Had the agency been more expeditious, these mosquitoes might have been available now for helping stem the current outbreak of Zika virus in South Florida.
While the FDA dillydallied, the Environmental Protection Agency has just approved the release of mosquitos infected with the Wolbachia bacteria. The biotech company MosquitoMate infects male Aedes aegypti that then pass along this bacteria when they mate. The eggs of infected females don't hatch. Clovis, California is releasing 40,000 of these mosquitoes every week in an effort to fend off the Zika virus.