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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 Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer As the world warms, it’s not just people who are feeling the heat. Bats are also susceptible to extreme heat, and overheated bat boxes can be “a death trap,” the Guardian reports. In the wild, bats move between rock and tree crevices in search of a perfectly moderated temperature. […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A new report entitled The World’s Forgotten Fishes from the World Wildlife Fund has found that there has been a “catastrophic” decline in freshwater fish, with nearly a third of all freshwater fish species coming perilously close to extinction. The statistics paint a sobering picture: 26% of all critically […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Move over Dolly, there’s a new clone in town and her name is Elizabeth Ann the Black-Footed ferret. You read that right; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced on Thursday that it had successfully cloned the first U.S. endangered species. Elizabeth Ann was born on December 10, […]
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