Over the years, mosquitoes have gained a reputation for being nasty, annoying, blood sucking, and disease carrying pests. While it is true that humanity must remain diligent in its battle to curtail these unwelcomed pests, over the weekend, news articles about the possible release of genetically-modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys not only added to that reputation butm ay have made it needlessly worse.
The Washington Post, for example, managed to use the words “Genetically modified killer mosquitoes” in its headline and later referred to them as “Frankenstein mosquitoes.” The Associated Press, in an article that’s been circulated by many other media outlets, wrote “Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood.”
The modified mosquitoes, if approved, would only be used to control mosquito populations without pesticides. The hope is that the chances of Florida residents being exposed to mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya will decrease. A similar program called the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been used in Florida for years. The state spends roughly $6 million a year using SIT to prevent Mediterranean fruit fly infestations. California spends $17 million a year. SIT was developed in the 1950s and was used successfully against the screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) which was finally eradicated in 1982.
According to National Geographic, mosquitoes are carriers of some of humanity’s most deadly illnesses and diseases. They are public enemy number one in the fight against global infectious disease. Mosquito-borne diseases cause millions of deaths worldwide every year with a disproportionate effect on children and the elderly in developing countries. There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes, but the members of three are primarily responsible for the spread of human diseases. It is hoped that by utilizing more inventive methods, that Humans can gain ground in the never ending battle against mosquitoes.
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