(CNN)A genetically modified male mosquito named OX5034 has received both state and federal approval to be released into the Florida Keys now through 2022, against the objection of many local residents and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups.
Genetically engineered mosquitoes get EPA approval for Florida release despite objections from environmental groups
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"The administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment, except without the island," said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety, in a statement.
"What could possibly go wrong? We don't know, because they unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks," she said.
Approved by the Environment Protection Agency this week, the pilot project is designed to test if the genetically modified mosquito is a viable alternative to spraying insecticides to control the Aedes aegypti. It's a species of mosquito that carries several deadly diseases, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
The mosquito OX5034 has been altered to produce female offspring that die in the larval stage, well before hatching and growing large enough to bite and spread disease. Only the female mosquito bites for blood, which she needs to mature her eggs. Males feed only on nectar, and are thus not a carrier for disease.
The mosquito is also approved to be released into Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021, according to Oxitec, the US-owned, British-based company that developed the genetically modified organism (GMO).
The Environmental Protection Agency granted Oxitec's request last month, after years of investigating the impact of the genetically altered mosquito on human and environmental health.
"This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases," Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen said in a statement.
This week the state of Florida issued an Experimental Use Permit after seven state agencies unanimously approved the project. But it's taken over a decade to obtain that approval.