Activists in US raise alarm over GM mosquitoes

| 16/05/2016 | 40 Comments
Cayman News Service

Genetically modified mosquito containers

(CNS): Just as bio-scientists are releasing tens of thousands of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Grand Cayman as part of a project to try and eliminate them, a group comprising public health, food safety and environmental activists in Florida is raising the alarm about the modified insects created by Oxitec. The Center for Food Safety and several other agencies are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US to conduct a more thorough review of the risks associated with releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes.

As well as commencing a major project here in Cayman, the UK-based firm, Oxitec, is urging the FDA to speed approval of another trial in Florida, this time in Key Haven.

However, more than 270,000 people have submitted comments to criticize the FDA’s review of Oxitec’s planned release, as the activists say the FDA has failed to evaluate key issues surrounding the releases, including safety to human health, potential for the experimental mosquitoes to move out of testing areas, and whether or not large numbers of the GE mosquitoes will actually reduce the spread of diseases like West Nile, Dengue or Zika.

“Allowing the widespread release of potentially harmful genetically engineered insects before seeing the hard science is sheer negligence, especially when we’re talking about accidental ingestion,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at Center for Food Safety, in a release Sunday.

Earlier this month Oxitec began a pilot project here following a trial in East End some five years ago and as a result of the FDA’s findings that other trials in the US and Brazil were not dangerous and had “no significant impacts” .

There was no consultation in Cayman before either the previous or current trials began, merely announcements that genetically engineered male mosquitoes were being released. During this latest project the mosquitoes are being released in West Bay first, but the plan is to release the engineered insects across all of Grand Cayman in an effort to eliminate the Aedes aegypti, an invasive species that is involved in the transmission of numerous viruses and disease.

Oxitec is adamant that their engineered insects are not only harmless but they are also environmentally friendly, as there is no use of pesticides. Nevertheless, activists have concerns that with so many mosquitoes being released, people cannot avoid breathing in and swallowing the insects.

“The FDA really missed the mark on this one,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The agency seems so eager to speed the process along that they have failed to do a real review of the potential risks, and are ignoring widespread concern in the community where the release will happen.”

The groups also flag the inadequacy of testing done to see how the modified mosquitoes will spread through the environment and what impact that will have on both local and regional ecosystems.

“FDA’s assessment is inadequate. GE mosquitoes would be virtually unregulated, and we don’t know how they would thrive in the wild and what the unintended consequences could be. They could cause more problems than solve,” said Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth, US.

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Category: Environmental Health, Land Habitat, Medical Health

Comments (40)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Cayman is been used as a Guinea pig. The use of tetracycline to feed GM mosquitoes in Oxitec’s mosquito factory risks spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria into the environment, posing a risk to human health.
    Did Scientists do due diligence of scenario of GM females (who get missed) and potentially bite PREGNANT humans/animals? GM are composed of herpes/ecoli. How could it not cause harm/disease for us. Herpes virus is also a cause of microcephaly in babies! Zika is a deterrent to tourism, but equally so are mutant, untested bugs. Worst part : there is no off switch or undo button.

  2. Unison says:

    And the thing is … we would hold back a cruise berthing facility project for many years just to assess its impact on the marine environment along the George Town coast. 🙂

    And yet this project would be so widespread, effecting all three islands and our livestock by releasing genetically altered mosquitoes into our wild. It’s like we are so anxious in being made guinea pigs of foreign experimentations. … smh

  3. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    Can Oxitec please release some genetically modified green iguanas so we can get rid of them once and for all? My dog can only catch and kill a few per day.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We’re spending >$1.5mln to put logos and images on voter ballots and educate morons on how to only execute a single vote, while MRCU’s entire annual budget has been paired back to something like $250k.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was trying to recall the last time I swallowed a mosquito by accident. And I can’t. Anyone else? This sounds like one of those ‘struck by lightning’ things. Probably more likely to win the lottery, without playing it, than to swallow a mosquito which then makes you sick.

    • Jotnar says:

      Jaydee Hanson has a BA in International Studies, and a Masters in Geography, and Dana Perls BA is in Psychology and a Masters in City Planning, so they may be a little confused on the “hard science”, as JD calls it, of ingesting a mosquito. Do they think that the modified mosquito DNA is to going to escape the digestive track and mutate us?

      Personally I find it an interesting logic trap to say that Oxitec cannot do field studies that will prove – or disprove – the “hard science” of using GM modified mosquitoes, then accuse them of doing the studies without the “hard science” to back it up. In both cases one suspects that their arguments are driven more by their ethical beliefs than by science.

  6. Anonymous says:

    All I can say is since they started releasing these things being outside day or night is a challenge. Having brunch at 11 yesterday near camana bay and we were eaten alive throughout.

    • Anonymous says:

      No Oxitec mosquitoes have been released in the Camana Bay area.

      What you are experiencing is what the new normal will be once insecticide resistance spreads in the local mosquitoes… unless we develop new control measures.

      • SSM345 says:

        8:36, I believe Mosquitoes can fly so not quite sure how you can claim they are not Oxitec mosquitoes? Just because they are released at one end of the island does not mean they stay there. There is also a natural phenomenon called wind which would also impact their distribution across the Island, put your head outside and you might experience it.

        • Anonymous says:

          The current round of releases is scheduled to start in West Bay but it hasn’t started yet. There have been no releases in Cayman since 2010. So no, any mozzies at Camana Bay are not the Oxitec ones.

          Even when they release them in North West Point the wind would carry them away from Camana Bay. So no, any mozzies at Camana Bay are not the Oxitec ones.

          And curious about the claim of lots of mozzies at brunch at 11am. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk and least active during the midday.

        • Jotnar says:

          Try reading up on Aedes Aegyptii distribution and range, and you may want to put your sarcasm where it belongs.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Oxitec mosquitoes are not being released yet. And they don’t bite.

    • Cho King Often says:

      Umm, excuse me but MALE mosquitoes don’t bite! It is only the females that do!

      So releasing 9 TRILLION of the GM males would increase your bites by = “0”

      • Anonymous says:

        Females (biting gm female mosquitoes) *will* be released. Director Doyle likened them to, “flying syringes.” Please do not experiment on me. No thank you. Better technologies have been used, such as Wolbachia. Stop pushing the biotech b.s. Thank you.

    • Anonymous says:

      You were not being harried by male Aedes Aegypti. They don’t seek a blood meal and expire after a couple days. Those were females, and probably some of the 6 or more common species that would normally hatch after rains.

  7. chappy says:

    “However, more than 270,000 people have submitted comments to criticize the FDA’s review of Oxitec’s planned release”

    There were exactly 2,639 Comments Received by the FDA during their comment period, most of them positive for the release.

    • Anonymous says:

      These particular groups continually make up their figures while criticizing actual research by others. There is no amount of research that would satisfy them.

    • Joe Citizen says:

      Chappy, How do you know 270,000 people submitted comments? And how do we know 2,639 comments (mostly positive) were received?

      • Anonymous says:

        look it up on fda website. the 270000 is a made up number

      • chappy says:

        “Chappy, How do you know 270,000 people submitted comments?”

        The article you are commenting on said that. I’m saying they inflating numbers by a factor of over 100 times.

        “And how do we know 2,639 comments (mostly positive) were received?”

        As the other poster stated, it’s on the FDA site under the comment section. P.S. The comment period was extended for an extra 30 days after people that dream up numbers like “270,000” asked them to.

  8. Cho King Often says:

    Our local bats “consume” mosquitoes in large quantities every evening. Are there possible environmental impacts upon the bats which may go unrecognized until it is too late (for the bats)?? Not harmful to humans is one thing, but a common artificial sweetener (Xylitol) has been determined to be ultimately toxic to dogs! Something to think about….

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      Xylitol has nothing to do with this and everybody knows is it dangerous to dogs (if they are good pet owners)… as is rat poison, chocolate, or anything with caffeine. That doesn’t mean we ban those things too.

    • anonymous says:

      Not harmful to humans? Artificial food of any kind is harmful. It is that it will kill you slowly,

    • Anonymous says:

      Most people don’t keep bats in their homes, where Aedes Aegypti live. You are thinking about the many other species of mosquitos that live here, which are the same as usual. Aedes are very unique.

  9. Anonymous says:

    With all of Darts roadworks going on creating large areas of standing water, why can’t he put his hand in his bottomless pocket and just pay for the mosquito planes to go up every night.
    There’s been a noticeable increase of the amount of mosquitoes along the mid 7 mile area since the start of the latest project and even his own Camana Bay is becoming an unpleasant place to go at night lately.

    • Anonymous says:

      The mosquito planes are spraying insecticides. And as the MRCU has noted the mosquitoes are growing resistant to those insecticides. Thus another approach is needed to mosquito control.

      • Anonymous says:

        Residents of the Florida Keys advocate for better technologies, such as Wolbachia and irradiated sterile insect technology.
        Additionally, you should be aware, insecticide use will not cease if GM mosquitoes are released in the Florida Keys. This is all public information. You may view video of Florida Keys Mosquito Control meetings on their website. The April meeting would be a good one to watch, as various scientists were invited to a workshop that presented alternatives to Oxitec’s product $.

    • anonymous says:

      Why won’t you count money in your own pocket? Mosquitoes planes will exterminate you along with mosquitoes. Not instantly though.

    • Anonymous says:

      Only you could blame Dart for Caymans endless mosquito problem…so it was never an issue before Dart? Get real and find someone else to blame for a change…jeez, Caymankind..

  10. Anonymous says:

    We have luddites too.

  11. Larvae says:

    The mosquitos are plentiful now can barely breath after 6.30 pm. Btw how much is this costing us?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wise move but not that CIG would have considered that!!

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