Biotech corporation withdraws permit for mass release of GE mosquitoes

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced the withdrawal of the permit that would have released billions of genetically engineered mosquitos throughout agriculture communities across the state.

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A genetically engineered mosquito experiment in the Central Valley of California came to a halt after the biotech corporation, Oxitec, withdrew its permit. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced the withdrawal of the permit that would have released billions of genetically engineered mosquitos throughout agriculture communities across the state.

Environmentalists, scientists and communities in the Central Valley are celebrating what they call a “win” for both humans and the environment.

“The withdrawal of Oxitec’s application is a victory for California residents and wild species,” Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety, said. “This withdrawal is in line with leaders from our state legislature who demanded a more comprehensive review of the impacts of these genetically engineered mosquitoes before the approval of this permit.”

Scientists and experts pushed back on Oxitec’s proposal stating there was “inadequate scientific review and lack of appropriate and relevant regulations,” according to a press release. The biotech company, who applied for a research authorization permit in April 2022 to release genetically engineered mosquitoes, was required to disclose critical data regarding the experiment’s potential public health and environmental risks.

“All Californians should be relieved that this permit has been withdrawn for the foreseeable future,” Dana Perls,senior program manager at Friends of the Earth, said. “Significant scientific research on genetically engineered mosquitoes is still needed to understand the potential public health and environmental threats associated with the release of this novel genetically engineered insect.”

While legislators urged the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to deny the permit because of the risks associated with the experiment, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) said that “there are too many unknown factors when it comes to how (GE mosquitoes) could affect our biodiversity in the long run, including how this might influence populations of birds, bats, fish species, and other insects.”

“This is a significant opportunity for California’s agricultural officials to hit pause and craft meaningful regulations that fully comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA),” Nan Wishner, founding board member of the California Environmental Health Initiative, said. “We must regulate not just this proposal for genetically engineered mosquitoes, but any proposal to release a genetically engineered animal in our state.”

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