Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Planned to Be Released in Florida Keys

April 13, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. borne /bɔrn/ (suffix) – being or transmitted by something
Example: Airborne diseases are common in polluted areas.

2. wipe out /ˈwaɪpˌaʊt/ (v.) – to eliminate or remove something completely
Example: The group’s mission is to wipe out pests in the area.

3. outbreak /ˈaʊtˌbreɪk/ (n.) – a sudden spread of a disease
Example: West Africa faced an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

4. lethal /ˈli θəl/ (adj.) – causing death; harmful
Example: High doses of the medicine can be lethal.

5. pester /ˈpɛs tər/ (v.) – to cause trouble and annoyance to someone
Example: Insects pester flower farmers in Kansas.


Read the text below.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) in South Florida plans to fight mosquito-borne diseases by releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes.

The FKMCD partnered with British biotechnology firm Oxitec in a mission to wipe out these insects in the area. The mosquito called Aedes aegypti [ey-EE-deez ih-jip-tahy] is notorious for carrying viruses like dengue and chikungunya [chik-uhn-GUN-yuh]. In 2009, Florida Keys faced a dengue outbreak and the insects still remain to be a threat among residents. With traditional methods proving to be inadequate, the mosquito control district has agreed on a new approach to eliminate the insects.

Oxitec plans to breed modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes containing a lethal gene. During the mating process, the male modified mosquitoes will transfer the gene designed to kill the fertilized eggs of native females. This gene will prevent females from reproducing, which will thus lower the insect’s population. The release of male mosquitoes will not be harmful since only females can bite and transmit diseases.

Over the past years, Oxitec has released more than 70 million modified mosquitoes in areas pestered by mosquitoes like the Cayman Islands and Brazil. According to Oxitec, more than 90% of wild mosquitoes were eliminated in the Cayman Islands. In Brazil, the mosquito population in two villages dropped by 60% to 70%. Though a breeding laboratory is already situated in Florida Keys, Oxitec and the control district still need the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval before they can release the genetically modified mosquitoes.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Should the release of genetically modified mosquitoes be approved? Why or why not?
·         If you were a resident in the area, how would you react to this plan?

Discussion B

·         How rampant are mosquito-borne viruses in Japan?
·         How do you think mosquito-related diseases can be prevented?

April 13, 2015