NGO challenges claims on GM mozzies

| 09/05/2016 | 38 Comments
Cayman News Service

Genetically modified mosquito containers

(CNS): Claims that the release of genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands in a pilot programme that began this week could eliminate the Aedes aegypti, the species that transmits several diseases, have been refuted by a non-governmental organisation that monitors the use of GM technology. GeneWatch UK said that previous experiments by Oxitec, the company that is behind the process, showed how ineffective the technology was. “There is no realistic expectation that mass releases of GM mosquitoes will reduce the risk of dengue or Zika and there is significant potential for things to go wrong,” warned Dr Helen Wallace, the director of the UK-based activist group.

“The risks have still not been properly assessed, including impacts on other mosquito species, which could move into the area in response to the releases. The risks of swallowing GM mosquitoes, or being bitten by released females, have still not been fully tested. And GM mosquitoes are likely to spread away from the release site when the genetic killing mechanism fails,” she added.

Oxitec has said it is only releasing genetically engineered male insects that don’t bite and that in time the species could be eliminated, as it has been in the past. Previous eradications of the mosquito species, which is not indigenous to the Cayman Islands, were achieved using harmful chemicals.

The project, for which there has so far been no charge to the Cayman Islands, was described by Oxitec as a partnership; the bio-tech company is supplying the mosquitos and staff to do the release while the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) is supporting the programme with local resources. However, in time Oxitec hopes to profit from their bio-engineered insects and it is not clear if the Cayman government will be required to pay for future releases.

Cayman and Brazil are the first countries where the mosquitos are being released as part of a planned eradication programme, moving on from various tests, including one first conducted here in East End some five years ago.

While the Oxitec scientists, supported by the local MRCU and government, claim this is a safe, environmentally friendly way to eliminate the Aedes aegypti without harming other species, there are still concerns about the very long-term impact and the still relatively limited knowledge of the use of GM technology on the insect world.

Following government’s announcement about the project on Friday, the MRCU will be conducting an awareness campaign over the next few weeks, which started this weekend in West Bay, where the first GM mosquitoes have been released.

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Category: Health, health and safety, Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (38)

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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 mosquitos 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.




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  2. Anonymous says:

    Genewatch is basically just a washed out failed academic, who couldn’t make it in her chosen discipline of physics, so found this anti-technology niche where she can get anti-science idealists to give her money; she needs to keep creating hype to maintain her relevancy. She presents her rambling non-science rhetoric as fact and findings when it is not accepted by the scientific community. She does not publish in credible peer reviewed scientific journals because her non-sense would not stand up to any rigorous assessment. What she does is immoral as she deliberately misinforms about technology which has the potential to significantly contribute to public health protection goals.




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  3. Anonymous says:

    The big question is are these genetically engineered or politically engineered for profit mozzies? Alden, I see you…lol.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    Question….. Why did the public not know this until they were about to release these mosquitos?




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  5. Anonymous says:

    If Oxitec claimed, “it is only releasing genetically engineered male insects that don’t bite and that in time the species could be eliminated” then they are lying!

    At a townhall meeting in Key West Florida Oxitec claimed, “we can do this male only release so we can release the insect is safe if you like, and not release both male and female together”

    It isn’t until Oxitec is again called out for spreading misinformation by an audience member that Oxitec finally admits about 1 in 1500 will be female.

    The Aedes aegypti will not be eliminated using this. Even the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations agrees on their website stating,
    “The transgenic approaches instead can have potentially unforeseen consequences because the released insects are not sterile and therefore will reproduce and become established.”




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    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately GeneWatch is not telling the truth about what Oxitec is claiming.

      Oxitec’s own website clearly states that some females do end up getting released, but they do sort based on sex and the releases are over 99% male.

      http://www.oxitec.com/faqs/what-are-the-risks-if-a-female-gm-mosquito-bites-someone-2/

      “This is why Oxitec aims to release only male mosquitoes and our sex sorting efficiency is high – over 99%.”

      And Oxitec does not claim that they can completely eliminate the A egypti mosquito except perhaps
      (maybe, not definite, possibly, not sure…. insert words indicating lack of certainty) in an isolated area such as an island – only that they can reduce their numbers. They are not claiming they definitely can completely eliminate A egypti from Cayman, only that it might be possible.

      Could you eradicate the dengue mosquito?
      http://www.oxitec.com/faqs/could-you-eradicate-the-dengue-mosquito/
      “No, we don’t believe this to be practical or indeed possible. A…In some isolated areas, say, for example, an island, we believe it will be possible to eliminate the mosquito, but vigilance will be needed to ensure it doesn’t return. So monitoring for the insect is an important part of any public health programme.”




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    • Anonymous says:

      Females are a different size than males, they are larger and are mechanically separated based on their size. The piggybac gene is gender based and applies to the males only, so any stunted females that are mis-sorted will just fly out, seek their first human blood meal to grow some eggs, and if successful getting that far, seek another meal and then mate with a friendly male that cannot produce live adults. Either way their offspring cannot develop to adulthood without tetracycline. If they mate with a wild male, then MRCU will get a chance at their descendants on a subsequent release.




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  6. Anonymous says:

    I vote for a referendum. I do not want to be exposed to these risks.




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    • Anonymous says:

      You’d rather have a referendum than educate yourself on how it works.




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    • Wake up NEO says:

      Referendum?…… Public beach…. George Town Dock…. These plans are already DICTATED to happen. Time for the people to stop turning the other cheek.




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  7. Anonymous says:

    With all due respect, “GeneWatch UK” knows nothing about mosquitos or Aedes Aegypti species. Dr Helen Wallace, seemingly their only representative, is a former Greenpeace-cause crusader running this outfit out of a tiny house in rural Derbyshire. Sure, she has a Phd in mathematics, and Bsc in Physics, but she doesn’t have the clinical, scientific, or medical background she would like everyone to assume she has.

    I’d prefer to read the facts, and then put my faith in the scientific peer-reviewed and much hailed work done by Oxitec and MRCU, over the crazy NGO cat-lady from Derbyshire who decided to chime in after reading an equially misleading article in the Guardian this week. I’m fairly certain there are no larval mosquitos that are going to encounter naturally-occurring tetracycline in the backyards of West Bay.

    MRCU actually speaks to her same layman concerns on their website:
    http://mrcu.ky/friendly-aedes-aegypti-project/




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    • Anonymous says:

      Then you go and live with the GM mosquitoes and leave the rest of us alone. I did not volunteer to be a lab rat.




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    • Rick says:

      Based on your arguments, Apple and Microsoft computers and software do not work well either. After all, they started in a garage somewhere. What does the size of the lady’s house or the fact that she has cats have to do with what we are discussing? Why don’t you identify yourself and show that you are an objective observer? With the name calling, there is a good chance that you have an interest in discrediting this lady. But the fact that you have put forward no arguments to counter what she is saying is proof that you have none. The evidence on the website you put up amounts to propaganda; but, not even it claims this process is known, so how can it be safe? Bottom line; it is an experiment and we are the guinea pigs.




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    • Anonymous says:

      5:55 pm
      How naive you are to trust corporate fraudulent science?
      What is science? It is an intellectual left-brain process dependent upon the five physical senses. This is the predominant science as defined and practiced today.
      Limits of science in a nutshell: It explains nothing;it can only describe. It proves nothing; it can only verify or disprove. Science cannot deal directly with subjective experience; it can only deal with the objective. “Scientific” does not necessarily mean right,valid or best; it only means that a certain method was followed.
      Belief in science is an act of faith and is, in itself, choice made subjectively and personally, not scientifically. Science is limited by time; tomorrow’s research can not help us today and yesterday’s events can not be directly observed. Science is limited by human bias in the choices of topics upon which the method is applied Etc. etc.
      So many famous scientists were dismissed as morons in their time.
      “Crazy” Scientists we didn’t believe (who were um, right): Nicolas Copernicus,Gregor Mendel, Fritz Zwicky, George Zweig.
      6 World-Changing Ideas That Were Originally Rejected: The Earth is Round – 330 BC; The Earth Revolves Around the Sun – 1600s; Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection – 1838; Pasteurization: Diseases are spread by germs – 1850s; Bacteria Causes Stomach Ulcers – 2005; Breakthrough Biological Theories on the Human Condition – 1983.

      “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstei




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      • Anonymous says:

        The thing is: the genuine scientists employed by the 100% philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have already studied the research and concur that this is a meaningful and safe initiative. That’s why they backed it with a commitment of millions of their dollars. What’s their angle?




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        • Zero Sperm Count says:

          100% philanthropic indeed, their involuntary vaccination / euthanasia agenda is working well worldwide.




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  8. Anonymous says:

    The more money our underpaid politicians can make for themselves the better.




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  9. Anonymous says:

    Did Oxitec pay to use us as guinea pigs? If so how much and to whom was it paid?
    Answer these questions and the science will become crystal clear.




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  10. SSM345 says:

    It doesn’t take a genius to know there will be unforeseen consequences when you mess with Mother Nature.




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    • Sam Putt Putt says:

      Indeed. Witness the sorry state of our reefs from pollution, climate change and the introduction of invasive species, our land from unchecked development and inept environmental health oversight and the hideous results of genetic manipulation that is a shih tzu.




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    • Anonymous says:

      The great Marco Giglioli messed with nature when he devised the dyke system to flush mosquito eggs to stop the insects hatching.
      Cayman would have not been today’s success if he had not messed with nature.
      MRCU mess away as far as I am concerned.




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  11. Anonymous says:

    You can bitch about the UK all you want, at least they have outfits like these to add counter arguments to what could otherwise just be pure propaganda.




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    • Anonymous says:

      This NGO “outfit” is actually just a scammer from Derbyshire using her math post grad doctorate to convince gullible conspiracists that she has clinical credentials and to solicit (cat food) donations. Whereas MRCU and Oxitec have peer-reviewed scientific research published and easily available. Even the Gates Foundation have vetted the science, and have granted substantial funds to the mosquito research being pioneered in Cayman that will save lives.




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      • Rick says:

        If her arguments were so incredible, why revert to name calling? One would think that you would simply refute the arguments using your own credible knowledge.




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        • Anonymous says:

          The point is plainly stated by other posters. Dr Wallace holds a PhD in applied mathematics, not in entomology, genetics, ecology, biology, or any other life science.

          The ‘R’ in MRCU is for Research. And our little MRCU does actual real research, all sciency and such.

          However the points raise by GeneWatch are too often claims that defy scientific understanding of the A egypti species and the control measures used. GeneWatch claims that the Oxitec mosquitoes will somehow spread beyond the immediate area of release into the broader wild. But research on A egypti proves that the species only lives in close contact with humans and individuals stay within about 200 yards for their entire lifespan.

          Dr Wallace and GeneWatch are scaremongering without a shred of evidence to back up their claims. And that is not how science works. GeneWatch’s extraordinary claim that A egypti mosquitos will spread far from point of release needs to be backed up with actual, you know, research. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. GeneWatch is making an extraordinary claim without proof.




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          • Jotnar says:

            My favourite bit was the reference to the risks in eating a GM mosquito.




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            • Anonymous says:

              Indeed. DNA is in every organic thing we eat. And we digest the DNA we eat rather than having it transform us.

              Just like eating a hamburger will not transform you into a cow with wheat stalks for arms eating a GM mosquito will not insert that modified gene into your genome and transform you into something out of a horror movie. It’s just food – for you, a bird, a bat, or whatever.




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          • Socrates says:

            “But research on A egypti proves that the species only lives in close contact with humans and individuals stay within about 200 yards for their entire lifespan.”

            so how did they get to the Cayman Islands then?




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            • Anonymous says:

              On the Mosquito plane of course….Jeesh..




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            • Anonymous says:

              Aedes aegypti are not like other mosquito species. The tiny black 1mm long eggs are viable for over a year and can be laid almost anywhere – including dry surfaces. They are thought to have travelled from Asia to Africa to Caribbean and North America on replacement car tyres. After taking a blood meal, female Aedes aegypti mosquitos will rest in a dark corner for up to 3 days and produce on average 100 to 200 eggs. The females can produce up to five batches of eggs during a lifetime. The number of eggs is dependent on the size of the blood meal. The female Aedes aegypti lays her eggs separately unlike most species. Not all eggs are laid at once, but they can be spread out over hours or days, depending on the availability of suitable substrates. Eggs will most often be placed at varying distances above a historical water line. The female mosquito will not lay the entire clutch at a single site, but rather spread out the eggs over several sites. Eggs are laid on damp surfaces in areas likely to temporarily flood, such as tree holes and man-made containers like barrels, drums, jars, pots, buckets, flower vases, plant saucers, tanks, discarded bottles, tins, tyres, water cooler, eaves, spouts, ground deflectors, etc. and a lot more places where rain-water collects or is stored. The eggs hatch immediately once immersed and take 2 days to develop into new adults.




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              • Socrates says:

                and your GM mosquitoes are so special that they won’t do anything similar, but will behave properly and stay within your 200m boundaries…..




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