Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Harris County?

What Could Go Wrong?

June 12, 2020

The Houston Sierra Club reports that Harris County is considering releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment to see how that goes.

The mosquito species Aedes aegypti, originally from Africa, has been genetically modified by a British biotech company to prevent them from reproducing. The mosquito is one of several species of mosquitoes responsible for the Zika and other viruses in Harris County, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. However, the Aedes aegypti prefers to live near and feed on people.

There are some 56 varieties of mosquitoes buzzing about the county. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant or very slow-moving water, slower than the bayou, which is why we don’t have mosquitoes on the bayou. Also turtles, fish, dragonflies, bats, birds, frogs, toads, lizards, and other creatures eat mosquitoes.

Frank Blake of the Sierra Club writes about modified mosquito project that “there are social and environmental justice concerns around the lack of transparency, the release site of the mosquitoes, the fact that Harris County residents cannot consent to essentially being human experiments and the impacts this may have on our local environment.”

He notes that environmental advocates suggest that “there are existing, less risky methods of mosquito control that have documented and demonstrated effectiveness.”

Find out more.

You can keep track of mosquito-borne disease in Harris County through the this online map. These diseases include the Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Saint Louis Encephalitis, and West Nile viruses. On June 10, the county reported that mosquitoes had tested positive for the West Nile virus in northwest Harris County. The Mosquito Control Division was treating the area.

Aedes aegypti. Photo by James Gathany, Center for Disease Control Public Health Image Library

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