(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
Category: Local News