Oxitec insists GM mozzies are safe and effective

| 11/05/2016 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service

Image from the Oxitec promotional video explaining the GM mosquito programme

(CNS): Responding to concerns about the long-term impact of releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes in an effort to eradicate the disease-carrying Aedes aegypti species, the firm behind the bio-science that has created sterile male insects insists that it is not only safe but very effective. Refuting claims by GeneWatch UK, which has expressed serious concerns about the release of genetically modified bugs into the wild, Oxitec told CNS that previous tests, including those here, were very successful with a 90% suppression of the wild population. 

“This level of control is unparalleled — in comparison, insecticides are 30-50% effective at best,” a spokesperson for the firm stated.

The Oxford-based British firm said it wasn’t just the company making claims but a series of trials and tests had been assessed by regulators in all of the countries where the GM mosquito has been released.

“Oxitec’s technology has been assessed by independent experts,” Matthew Warren from Oxitec confirmed.

He said, “The project in Grand Cayman has been previously assessed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment. Since the implementation of the National Conservation Law it is being further reviewed by the National Conservation Council. Similarly, for our planned trial in Florida, experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) evaluated potential impacts on health and environment, and issued a preliminary finding of no significant impact. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also specifically recommended pilot deployment of our technology.”

Oxitec insists that its engineered insects are not harmful to humans.

“The proteins that are introduced into our mosquitoes are non-toxic and non-allergenic, so if someone were to swallow an Oxitec mosquito, it would be just like swallowing a wild mosquito,” Warren said. “These proteins are also not expressed in the saliva of females. If a person was bitten by an Oxitec female, it would be the same as being bitten by a wild mosquito.”

He added, “Additionally, males do not bite, and we release virtually all males, and can sort to greater than 99.9% efficiency. This is not only our point of view, but those of the regulators that have evaluated the mosquito prior to release, and have come to the same conclusions.”

The bio-technology firm also stated that a successful suppression of Aedes aegypti did not mean other equally problematic mosquitoes would move into the space.

Aedes aegypti is overwhelmingly the main threat in its ability to transmit disease,” said Warren. “The species Aedes albopictus can also transmit disease but does so far less effectively. Moreover, a previous trial in Panama found no evidence that suppressing Aedes aegypti increased the population of Aedes albopictus.”

The firm’s spokesperson added that Oxitec will monitor both species during the Cayman project, which started this month.

While GeneWatch has raised concerns about the engineered mosquitoes being released into the wild and its impact on the natural ecological balance, other activists have also raised concerns that the GM mosquitoes, far from eradicating disease, may have contributed to the suspected mutation of the Zika virus in Brazil. These issues have been dismissed by supporters as mere conspiracy theories.

Zika has been linked to microcephaly in babies, a potentially fatal condition where skulls and brains fail to form properly. Thousands of babies have been born with the birth defects in Brazil where Oxitec trials took place. Critics of GM insect releases have also suggested that in the absence of studies into the potential knock-on effects of mutated mosquitoes, they may thrive in the wild.

But Oxitec has also widely refuted these allegations and pointed out the mosquitoes were released in different area to the highest concentration of birth defects in Brazil and that only a small percentage of offspring from the GM mosquitoes survive. The bio-engineers also said there are no “known ways” for mosquito genes to infiltrate those of Zika.

Watch the Oxitec promotional video of the GM mosquito programme

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

Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just a thought, but could the same science be put to use within family’s who consistently spew career criminals? An inability to procreate and a short life span seems the ideal formula.

  2. Alarm clock says:

    Is there anything off-limits that these elected traitors will not do?

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is no point in having in have territories if they cannot be put to good use to increase capital in the UK.

  4. Anonymous says:


    But didn’t bother making all that documentation available for independent scrutiny by groups like GeneWatch.

  5. Sharkey says:

    If that’s the size of the genetic mosquitoes, we would have to be careful about releasing on the Island because they look like they could breed with more than mosquitoes .

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oxitec, please go away and leave us alone. I’d rather take my chance with the mozzies. I do not consent to being used as a guinea pig and will take you to court if necessary.

    • Anonymous says:

      And some of use don’t want to take our chances with Zika, Chikungunya, or Dengue. My family members have had Dengue. Dengue is scary. Oxitec mosquitoes are not. Dengue kills people. Oxitec mosquitoes do not.

      Welcome to Cayman, Oxitec. You did the earlier releases right in East End where I live and I’d be pleased to have you back. Yes, Welcome to my back yard.

      Wild mosquitoes are increasingly developing resistance to insecticide. We need to develop new approaches and the RIDL technology that Oxitec uses adapts an approach used for decades in research. Proven safe. Proven effective. An inherent design that resists development of resistance. Yeah, science!

      • Anonymous says:

        Or Yellow Fever Virus or Encephalytis or numerous other viral diseases. All that’s missing is the infected blood meal to start an urban outbreak. All the other ingredients are here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If they were really doing us a favour, given the high level of sketicism and resistance from the locals, they would have packed up and left by now!

  8. Anonymous says:

    yeah right. Not on my watch bobo. How again are they allowed to released these things without permission for the society who is being tested on?

    • Anonymous says:

      They got permission through the mechanisms that society has put in place. No decision that government takes requires unanimous consent of the electorate. Thank goodness. Otherwise we will never be able to tackle other big projects like the dump, the port, civil service pension reform, etc…

      Don’t like the mechanisms in place for decisions to be made? Then vote to change them.

      • Anonymous says:

        “the mechanisms that society has put in place”
        That worked well with Vioxx didn’t it?

        “Our product is safe because we said so based on the science that we did which was never independently peer-reviewed”

        For all you know, the outbreak of Zika may have been caused by Oxitec’s mosquitoes.

        • Anonymous says:

          Logic proves the falisty of your claim.

          Oxitec mosquitos have perviously been released in Cayman. But there has not been a single case of locally transmitted Zika documented.

          Zika outbreaks have been recorded in Brazil, a country where Oxitec mosquitoes have been released. But the outbreak began prior to the Oxitec releases.

          And Zika outbreaks have been recorded in places where Oxitect mosquitoes have never been released. The Lancet is a premier scientific journal and they published a study documenting the same: Association between Zika virus and microcephaly in French Polynesia, 2013–15: a retrospective study http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00651-6/abstract

          Even Politifact has chimed in on the alleged link between Zika and GM mosquitoes earning the claim their most harsh “Pants on Fire” rating:
          No evidence to support rumors tying Zika to genetically modified mosquitoes

          Politifact notes that Zika was first documented about 70 years ago in Uganda a very long time before Oxitec came to be.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m reading your post and just wondering if you meant to be paradoxical or just felt like being a jackass? You do realize that “those big projects” have been discussed for years and nothing has happened right?

        Yes I do not like being tested on without consent. That should be the main argument here. I would hope you felt the same?

        • Anonymous says:

          And some big projects have happened despite not gathering 100% support from the public. The NRA agreement with DART to close a part of West Bay Rd certainly had opposition. Providing duty concessions for the developers of Health City still has some complaining of unfair competition. Royal Watler Pier development, building a new high school, and constructing the new Government Building on Elgin Ave would not have happened if 100% support was required. The dump remediation, port development, and other big projects will never happen with 100% support.

          Does the MRCU ask you if you want insecticide sprayed over your house? Does the Water Authority ask if you want fluoride in your water?

          Government makes decisions that affect public health even if not everyone agrees. It is a proper role of government.

          You do not get a heckler’s veto. Government does not have to garner 100% consent to make decisions that affect the public.

          • Anonymous says:

            Its a shame you think this way and put 100% of your trust into government. I find it hilarious you call me a heckler just because I disagree with being used as a test subject.

            Sorry, I do not agree that government is allowed to do as they want and not involve the community in someway. It doesnt have to be 100% consent, but maybe 50%.

            I would prefer not to live as a sheep in society waiting for slaughter. but guess what? Thats just my opinion !! No worries Ba ba!

  9. Anonymous says:

    What else they can possibly say?

  10. Anonymous says:

    One other thing regarding the conspiracy that its GM Mosis causing zika babies. The same problem was found in French Polynesia in 2013/14. See article in the New England Journal of Medicine 9which has appropriate scientific caveats) http://www.jwatch.org/na40900/2016/03/28/zika-virus-and-microcephaly-french-polynesia

    Or, as USA Today put it “A new study from French Polynesia shows that the territory’s rate of birth defects rose after a Zika virus outbreak there in 2013 and 2014, strengthening the link between the virus and medical problems in infants.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/03/15/zika-linked-microcephaly-2013-2014-outbreak-french-polynesia/81783422/

    Of course Brazil is much bigger than French Polynesia, with a lot more people. And the microcephaly, much less birth defects, issue is probably more complicated than ‘just zika’. But the point is no GM mosquitos in sight in the earlier outbreak.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Of course they insist. They wish to sell them.

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