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EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquitoes

EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquitoes
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a lawsuit over its approval of a plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida and Texas.

Several groups, including the Center for Food Safety, the International Center for Technology Assessment and Friends of the Earth filed a notice of intent to sue on Friday. They alleged that the EPA violated the law by failing to consult with wildlife agencies before determining that the mosquitoes will not pose risks to threatened species.

“EPA’s ‘no effect’ findings and failure to consult are arbitrary and capricious and violate the ESA [Endangered Species Act] because they fail to follow the ESA’s mandated procedures, fail to use the best scientific and commercial data available, fail to consider significant aspects of the issue, and offer an explanation that runs counter to the evidence before the agency,” the groups claimed in their notice. 

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The EPA last month approved an experimental use permit for a company that wants to test the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes as a way to try to reduce mosquito populations and protect people from mosquito-borne illnesses.

According to an agency press release, a company called Oxitec will release male mosquitoes in Monroe County, Florida, and Harris County, Texas. The insects will contain a protein that will lessen the chances of survival of female mosquito offspring and result in male offspring having the same modification.

The agency said that because only male mosquitoes, which do not bite, will be released, there are no risks to people. It also said there will not be adverse effects on animals such as bats and fish.

An agency spokesperson declined to comment, saying the EPA doesn't comment on notice of intent to sue.

Jaydee Hanson, policy director at the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety, called the plan a “Jurassic Park experiment.”

“What could possibly go wrong?” he asked. “We don’t know, because they unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks.”