GM insect release will go ahead, says premier

| 14/06/2016 | 54 Comments
Cayman News Service

Genetically modified mosquito containers

(CNS): The first planned release of millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in West Bay by a UK bio-technology firm will not be stopped, Premier Alden McLaughlin has confirmed. In a letter responding to a request from the opposition leader to put the release on hold until “scientific questions” have been answered, McLaughlin has told McKeeva Bush that a “robust body of scientific answers” already exists to support the release.

Although originally a supporter of the project, following concerns raised by his constituents in West Bay about the planned released of the genetically modified insects by Oxitec, Bush wrote to government asking it to defer the project. He said more public discussion and education was needed before the insects are released.

Oxitec has held just one public meeting in the district and circulated their research and analysis of the work, along with the FDA and WHO findings on the tests so far. Since the meeting, a petition was started ahead of the West Bay release this month asking for at the very least a postponement.

The technology has stirred up controversy since Oxitec began its first field studies, one of which was in Cayman’s East End.

As the body of research and analysis of the data builds up, the projects are expanding and concerns are also growing. Questions are still being asked about the effect the genetically modified insects will have on the environment where it is released and what such insects can do to humans.

However, Oxitec has said the GM mosquitoes have proved effective in reducing the numbers of the disease carrying Aedes aegypti. The vast majority of the GM insects released are non-biting males, which breed with natural females and produce sterile offspring that perish, though a small percentage are female. The scientists say that a GM female that bites a human does no more harm than a regular mosquito and if she breeds with a wild male, the offspring still die.

The technology has been lauded as a modern environmentally friendly solution to the Aedes aegypti because it does not involve toxic pesticides, most of which this particular type of mosquito is becoming increasingly resistant to and proving evermore challenging to eradicate.

In his letter to Bush, the premier makes it clear that he believes the GM mosquitoes could offer the solution to the problems faced by the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) as it struggles to control the invasive species of mosquito that poses a significant public health risk.

“The Aedes aegypti are showing resistance to many of the available insecticides and their ability to lay their eggs in very small quantities of water around houses makes in virtually impossible to eliminate all of their breeding sites,” he wrote in his correspondence with the opposition leader.

Pointing out the need for new tools to fight the insect, which carries yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika, the premier said he believed the technology had been tested and he would not postpone the release of the insects.

The release was due to start this moth but no dates have yet been confirmed.

Information about the project and the details of the GM mosquitoes are available on the MRCU website

Letter from Premier Alden McLaughlin to Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush on genetically modified mosquitoes, 10 June 2016

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this some kind of approach to modifying the behaviour of the folks from West Bay, perhaps?
    My wife’s family still reside there, and I will be reporting, on a regular basis – via the good graces of CNS – on any marked departures in their general character and bahavioural traits and such. Keep watching CNS for my updates.

  2. caymaianbybirth says:

    I for one will be seeking a law suit on the government for me my children and any family member that gets sick or die from these. Vampires and so I truly hope they know what they are doing or government period will be up inn flames and the queen will have to save them once again. . My beautiful doll face daughters and handsome little son. Trust me if a hair falls off there skin every Mla involved with paid with more than money ? because we are worth more than the money MLA receive to use us as test pigs. We are Caymanians for Chirst
    sake. We should have the say but its never fair to us until something going completely wrong.then sorry is not enough.

  3. Anonymous says:

    From some of the comments here Cayman Islands should just go backwards and get a witchdoctor to help them ward off evil tings. Lack of education has not been kind to Caymanians.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Since the Premier says that the GMM’s are so safe, then he should release the first trial in Prospect Park near his house to prove his point. Sound like the Dump issue he has responsibility for ” Not in my backyard”.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I know this is it. We are now importing foreign mosquitoes by the millions. should Cayman not be exporting mosquitoes as they are one of the only things made in Cayman?

    We are paying MRCU and the Oxitec scientists to release millions of mosquitoes and at the same time we are paying MRCU to spray them with the spray plane to kill off the mosquitoes.

    We are paying all this money (I know, I know, it’s free ……… my a**) for what? To fight a disease that we don’t even have.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oh the West Bay bunch – calling themselves activists. It’s a good skit for a comedy to be sure.

  7. Charlie Rose says:

    Let the people at mosquito control do their job and fund them well but also check and verify that they are doing the best they can and not what pays them best.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Zika is already here. The Government is trying to cover it up for tourism reasons.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The oxitec approach is now covering an area with 60,000 residents in Brazil, on its way to producing enough GMM to cover a population of 300,000. Zika is a virus that destroys fetal brain development and can cause still birth. The GMM approach has been proven to have far superior results, and Cayman will be the beneficiary of being one of the first areas made safe. Treat for Zika and you get Dengue & Chikungunya protection for free.

  10. Anonymous says:

    They all should be bitting all the MLA’s butts!

  11. 345 says:

    amygdala vs. Gyrus, enough said.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like people are objecting just for the pleasure of hearing themselves. What are you going to do if Zika finds its way here? Who is going to take care of the brain damaged babies? It pisses me off to hear people talking this crap they found on the internet. The World Health Organization thinks this works, and we should be thankful we have an option. They didn’t have that option in Brazil when all those little sick babies were being born.

    • Anonymous says:

      Errrrr………… Zeka already found itself here ……… and it had nothing to do with mosquitoes. what is our next move, neutering all males on Island? Or should we just import some eunuchs to hook up with our females?

      Stop with the scare mongering!

    • NotNice says:

      Pisses me off you take your leaders word for everything they say. That’s like saying you completely trust the US Federal reserve. Did you know they did not foresee any of the recessions in the USA, ever? And that’s their job.

  13. Anonymous says:

    How is it that daylight savings was overturned but gov is holding the line on GM bugs? Coo coo crazy this place is.

    • Anonymous says:

      DST was cancelled because they weren’t sure if the GM mozzies would know what time to come out and mate.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is a sad day for Cayman. The persons whose eyes were open enough to sign the petition have been let down by our leader. The de population organization otherwise known as WHO get their way again and our health is the victim. Mark my words, a Zika breakout is now going to happen in West Bay first and the rest of the island will soon follow.

    • Anonymous says:

      You know they released GM mos in East End before, so per your theory there should have been an outbreak of Zika already.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sure the West Bay District Coalition of Scientists (WBDCS) have done their research, and have found Oxitec, and the WHO has conspired under the banner of pseudo-science to hoodwink us into believing they can reduce/eliminate the little winged-vampires. Here is a better solution, have some daily prayer meetings to eradicate them.

      Mr Premier, please use this same logical (non-political):) approach in resolving what has become our National Monument that always reminds us of it’s ever presence via sight, and aroma …Hold on a minute, is this a game of opposites? B’cus Mckeeva has joined the WBDCS in the opposition, The Premier is making sure he dosn’t get his way? …Lets do a little test to prove my suspicion wrong… Mckeeva can you please advocate for nothing at all to be done in resolving “Mt Thrashmore”?…Who knows, maybe the Island can benefit from this little game of opposites?

  15. Just Sayin' says:

    All the West Bay objectors can live in Ozzie’s Ebola Tent.

  16. SSM345 says:

    If we are being used as a case study (i.e. test run) on the effect of these GM mosquitos in the wild, then they don’t have all the answers yet on the effect they will have right? The ” robust body of scientific answers” they have comes from research conducted in a lab correct? Way to go Alden.

  17. Anonymous says:

    One has the right to be arrogant in this life … so long as it impacts himself alone.

    However, no one has the the right to transform their personal arrogance into a game of Russian Roulette with the environment and ecology of a nation of people … in 2016.

    Sorry for whoever doesn’t like it, but his track record and legacy confirms that Alden Mclaughlin is not fit to be a leader or decision-maker for any group of people.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree Alden is not fit, that’s why I am surprised he is actually letting the GM release go ahead! One thing I think he did right. Hell must’ve frozen over.

    • Anonymous says:

      ?So no one currently in leadership is fit to lead. Explains a lot.

  18. Anonymous says:

    If the majority of the people in West Bay, as stated by their Elected Representatives, don’t want want them released in their District then I suggest that perhaps the mosquitoes only be released in a small area around Tara’s house. The rest of the people of West Bay can handle Zika and Dengue just as they did Malaria and Yellow Fever in the good old days.

    If Ezzard and Arden are willing to stand up and say the majority of people in their district don’t wish to participate in this experiment then leave East End and North Side out of it as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      The rest of us don’t want people like you to get infected, even if you think you are tougher than Zika. Other people’s babies might not be so tough as you.

  19. Anonymous says:

    There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. -John F. Kennedy

  20. Direct Line says:

    The Premier should have simply invoked his response of old (as he did in relation to Clifton Hunter High):

    “Only God can stop this project.”

  21. Anonymous says:

    The Premier should not rush to ignore all warnings and embracing the GMO mosquitoes so comfortably. Perhaps they are safe, at least I hope so, but he really needs to be more sympathetic to those of us who are wondering if they are safe. I am well aware that the Zika virus is troubling but this seems to be a double edge sword. Every stone should be turned to ascertain if there is any likelihood that the stories circulating about the cause of the outbreaks of Zika in various countries. Why does he think he should take such an unsympathetic stance on this issue immaterial of the stories being circulated. He has no medical/ scientific expertise on this subject and should be as concerned as the rest of us. It can never be wrong to ask more questions, to not do so is reckless.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Premier has an obligation to the whole country to try to prevent the Zika virus from getting a foothold here. It may not succeed but we must try and we must ACT quickly and listen to professional advice which says that the Oxitec proposal is safe and has a good chance of being effective. That is the responsible approach to take. To ignore that advice because of some silly rumours being circulated is to be reckless and irresponsible!

      • Anonymous says:

        Why don’t you voulenter your primises and surrounding area for this experiment. Surely if there was not concerns of the safety aspect of these misquitoes they would be released island wide all at once. “Divide and conquer “. However misquitoes has no prejudices.

        • Think of all possibilities says:

          I will gladly offer my property for these Oxitec mosquitos. In fact, I was disappointed that my neighborhood would not be one of the first ones protected from Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue. Weest Bayers are actually the lucky ones.

        • Anonymous says:

          AE mosquitos prefer the indoors. This is why DDT was so effective in the 70s when sprayed on the interior walls of homes. A GM male mosquito will find females wherever they are and mate with them, ending their progeny line. The inability to spray chemicals indoors (homes & businesses) makes oxitec the only viable solution for widespread effective mosquito control. Spraying outside kills plenty of insects, just not the kind you’re looking for.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no relationship between Zika, it’s serious neurological consequences for all humans (since 1947), and the “new” Oxitec-modified piggyBac transposon – which is being applied only to non-biting male mosquitos and is physically too large to go unnoticed if it were even possible to “jump” into the current strain of Zika. A Reddit conspiracy theory on this topic was quickly shot down with proven science months ago. The Oxitec-modified transposing gene, a double-stranded DNA element, at a size of 8.4kb, is nearly the same size as the entire Zika genome, a tiny single-stranded RNA virus, easily sequenced at 10.8kb. It is physically impossible for DNA to jump into an RNA virus. This is BIO101 stuff. How many months should the educated people of Cayman risk serious family health consequences while the school-leavers peruse the Internet at their own pace searching for tinfoil hat conspiracies and delay opportunities?

      Please catch up:

    • Anonymous says:

      GMM live an average of 4 days outside the lab. Wild mosquito lifespan is roughly 2 weeks. The GMM have been field tested since 2009 with no findings of significant impact. If any findings were ever observed the releases could be stopped and the self limiting nature of the GMM would cause that impact to cease immediately. The amazing control of this approach is second only to its efficacy.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Glad to hear that science prevailed over ignorance and politics. Here’s hoping Zika will be avoided. It will be very bad for Cayman if it gets established here.

  23. Anonymous says:

    The PPM will never get elected in West Bay including their Education Minister Tara Rivers, who has remained closed lip on this matter. Never!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Defer the project until we all have chikun-zika masala? Let them mutants go already!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    It’s terrible! Me and kids went out this weekend trying to enjoy public beach and camana bay. Mosquitos bit us all! We all have bits all over us 🙁 we can’t even enjoy summer vacation with our kids outdoors!!!

    People don’t travel to cayman this summer you will be eaten alive 🙁

  26. Unison says:

    Hmmm… Interesting article in the daily mail: “Concerns have been raised scientists could be to blame for the Zika virus outbreakafter genetically modified insects were released into Brazil three years ago.

    Didcot-based biotechnology company Oxitec worked on the same type of mosquito that carries the virus in 2012, engineering them to have offspring that die out before they can breed, reducing the population of disease-carrying bugs.

    Some scientists questioned the wisdom of the plan at the time and it has led to critics claiming the modification could have sparked the current outbreak.

    But Oxitec refuted these claims and has actually been asked to expand its work in Brazil to help tackle the outbreak, opening a new mosquito facility in Piracicaba…”


    I just have to wonder, why is Alden taking this scientific issue so political??? Yes, Opposition has brought it up in the LA, but could he not for once see the logic in “asking more questions”??? Besides he is not a scientist! :/

    • Anonymous says:

      Zika was first identified in the 1947, some 66 years before you claim scientists invented it. So they must have also built a time travelling GM mosquitos

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      Stop spreading false fears. The Daily Mail is one of the least reliable sources on the internet. You’re NOT HELPING!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Can’t they breed them to bite ony drug runners, gunmen, burglars and robbers?.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is the majority of west bay! Why do you think they chose this district!

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t worry West Bay they won’t stay long in your district, they are sent to mate with the wild female, so obviously they are attracted to the wild ones (I mean the women) and there are a lot of them in other districts also

      • Anonymous says:

        Why do you think I chose those characteristics?.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I hope all exists leave! This country cares nothing for its own people.

  29. Anonymous says:

    A sad day when those charged to listen to public chooses instead to ignore their cries; notwithstanding the highlighted health and safety concerns. The Premier has made this a political issue. He needs to see the robust body of evidence by peer reviews in the science of GMM and others that highlights these concerns, not just of lack of concrete data and outcomes from field trials on humans, animal and the environment but of Oxitec.

    Once again the constitution has been overlooked and set aside. The residents of the Cayman Islands should never settle to be an experiment. Sad sad day.

    • Anonymous says:

      What “robust body of evidence by peer reviews in the science of GMM”? This is your problem, you can’t site any. So why should anyone listen to you?

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