The mosquitoes that can spread Zika are already buzzing among us. The U.S. government could use some help figuring out exactly where. No experience is necessary for what the U.S. Department of Agriculture envisions as a nationwide experiment in citizen-science. Teenagers already have proven themselves up to the task in tryouts involving a small number of high school students and science teachers. Now it's time for the Invasive Mosquito Project to scale up and fast, since Zika has been linked to serious birth defects and health officials are preparing for the possibility of small outbreaks in the United States.
Supporters are expressing confidence in the FDA evaluation, data from Oxitec and reports about similar international trials. They say the risks of mosquito-borne diseases outweigh fears about releasing a genetically modified species into the wild. And some say they distrust GMO foods but still consider the Oxitec plan more environmentally friendly than pesticides. Critics raise the potential consequences to human health and the environment of releasing GMO mosquitoes without more long-term research, arguing that the risks are too high even amid a global health crisis.
British biotech company Oxitec and the Cayman Islands government have announced plans to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the fight against a species that spreads Zika and other diseases. Deployment of the mosquitoes against the Aedes aegypti species in the Cayman Islands is a major advance for Oxitec, which has promoted the method heavily as an environmentally safe way to combat the vectors of mosquito-borne illnesses while confronting public concerns about the technology.
Black bears in Florida surged by 60 percent over 14 years to 4,350 last summer, new data showed Thursday, providing what wildlife officials said were plenty of animals for a controversial bear hunt last October. Florida black bears dwindled to just a few hundred in the 1970s but have rebounded under protections, while continued development has put them on a collision course with people. Wildlife officials cite increasing attacks, car accidents and nuisance calls involving bears, and this week spent eight hours removing a black bear from a southwestern Florida school.