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The Environmental Protection Agency granted an experimental permit to Oxitec, a company with close ties to President Trump, that allows them to release in Houston and the Florida Keys genetically altered mosquitoes intended to help curb the spread of harmful diseases like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue. While water-borne insects like mosquitos are increasing, most insects are a vital part of the ecosystem that we are unfortunately losing at the alarming rate of approximately 9% each decade, according to a new study in the journal Science.
Why This Matters: Preventing the spread of harmful diseases is a good thing. But it is hard to trust whether experimental permits like this one are in the public’s best interest when big donors to the President appear to get favorable treatment by government agencies. The decline of terrestrial insects is due to habitat loss, which is why we need to conserve 30% of the planet by 2030. But scientists don’t yet understand why we are losing insect populations so quickly. Approximately three-quarters of all flowering plants rely on insect pollinators (more than just bees do it) – they are nature’s unsung heroes and we can’t afford to lose them.
“Most fruit crops, from apples to watermelons, need insect pollinators.”
“Insects are also critical seed dispersers. Many plants equip their seeds with little appendages, known as elaiosomes, that are packed with fats and other goodies. Ants carry off the seed, eat only the elaiosome, and leave the rest to sprout.”
“Insects “provide food for freshwater fish and just about every kind of land animal. Insectivorous reptiles include geckos, anoles, and skinks; tree shrews and anteaters are insectivorous mammals. Birds that subsist mainly on bugs include swallows, warblers, woodpeckers, and wrens.”
“Even birds that are omnivores as adults often rely on insects when they’re young.”
“Insects are also crucial decomposers that keep the wheel of life turning. By eating poop, dung beetles help return nutrients to the soil.”
Indeed, when entomologists assign a dollar value to all this work that they broke down into four categories of “insect services”—“dung burial, pest control, pollination, and wildlife nutrition”—and they determined bugs are worth $57 billion a year for the U.S. alone.
Genetically Modified Male Mosquitos
The special male mosquitoes are modified to carry a gene that causes female offspring to die, which is their purpose because only female mosquitoes are the ones that bite people and animals and thus spread diseases, while male mosquitos pose no threat. But the males apparently lose the trait over time, so the impact of this type of mosquito population control is only temporary. State and local government permits will also be required before the genetically modified mosquitos can be released.
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor According to the Australian Koala Foundation, 30% of the nation’s Koalas have been lost to drought, bushfires, and logging in just three years. The population has dropped to 58,000 from more than 80,000 in 2018, and no regions saw positive population growth. These findings arrive just days after the […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor The maned wolf is certainly a unique animal, with long legs, massive ears, and bright red fur. Many might compare it to a fox, but it’s actually South America’s largest canid species. And not only is the maned wolf elusive — it’s endangered. Researchers working with Rewilding Argentina and […]
Today is International Red Panda Day! These iconic and adorable creatures are worth celebrating for many reasons, but they’re also in need of serious protection. This cat-sized, fluffy-tailed animal is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Climate change and rising temperatures are reducing the red panda’s […]
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