Activists delay planned release of GM mosquitoes

| 14/07/2016 | 84 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec (left) and MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie look over a batch of mosquito larvae that was reared for the now delayed release

(CNS): A group of local activists in West Bay who are opposed to the planned release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the district have managed to delay the start of the project which was due to get underway Thursday. The group aimed to highlight concerns about the failure to properly consult the public and the questions raised by the research into GM mosquitoes. Dwene Ebanks, one of the leaders of the campaign, has confirmed that their application for a judicial review led to the courts putting a temporary stop on today’s release until the legal challenge can be heard next week.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit has been working in partnership with the British-based bio-technology company, Oxitec, which created the genetically modified Aedes aegypti that are promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to expensive and increasingly ineffective insecticides.

The company has engineered mosquitoes that are sterile. By releasing significant numbers of the male mosquitoes to breed with the wild females, scientists believe they can almost eradicate the disease-spreading invasive species.

The public health officials are increasingly concerned about the Aedes aegypti because the mosquito not only acts as a vector for diseases such as chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever, it also spreads the Zika virus, which as a result of mutations has become a worldwide concern.

The GM bugs have been released in a number of tests, including in Cayman in East End in 2010 as well as in Brazil and Florida. The FDA and the WHO have given the nod to the technology but there is still widespread concern about possible unintended consequences.

Ebanks, who is heading up the local opposition to the project, has said that the legal action is based on several areas of concern and the activists are thankful for the stay.

Oxitec had planned to release millions of mosquitoes during the pilot project scheduled to start today but the legal action will now be heard first. Ebanks and his supporters are arguing that there was a failure to carry out an independent risk assessment on which the local authorities could make an informed decision to grant the MRCU application to undertake this release.

In the application Ebanks said the National Conservation Council relied solely on a risk assessment authored by Oxitec and supported by the MRCU from 2009 and failed to consider the fact that the risk assessment was not independent, since Oxitec has a commercial interest in the project. The activists also state that the risk assessment doesn’t comply with European law and that the NCC should have made enquiries to ensure it followed directives.

A major concern outlined in the judicial review application is that there was no proper public consultation before the decision was made and the NCC acted unlawfully when it granted the licence for the release. Ebanks also believes that the East End trial in 2009/10 was done in secret and the whole project is putting the lives of local people at risk.

The activists still have some way to go to put a complete stop to the project but the MRCU confirmed that the release has been delayed and that they will release more information later.

The government is fully behind the project however, as they believe it is a safe and inexpensive solution to a challenging public health problem if it is as effective as Oxitec claim. As a result, the CIG is expected to fight the judicial review, which is expected to be heard next week.

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Category: Health, Land Habitat, Medical Health, Science & Nature

Comments (84)

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  1. John says:

    It would perhaps behoove some to consider the high cancer rate in Cayman, which is for many the result of environmental contamination resulting from exposure to Monsanto and other insecticides.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Surely the application was out of time and should have been kicked out?

  3. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. says:

    The project was not approved by the village witch doctor!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is it just me, but I have some monstrous bites in the last few days. I means these things just swelled up like Krakatoa. This has never happened before.
    How convenient that we are about to release the “cure”.
    Perhaps we have already released the “cause”.

    Do you really think that the government is going to listen to the people? Hell no.
    They have probably released some nasty stuff already.

    God is not mocked. Whatever you sow, you will reap. If you sow nastiness into our community, you will reap your just rewards.
    Hey, I don’t make up the rules.

    Here are a couple of rules that I didn’t make up. Let the hate begin.

    “Love one another as I have loved you.”
    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
    “Do no violence to anyone.”
    “Forgive, that you may be forgiven.”
    “Do not abuse children.”
    “Tell the truth.”
    “Be kind.”
    “Do not steal.”
    “Laugh a lot.”
    “Hug each other and tell your nearest and dearest that you love them.”

    He hath founded it upon the seas!

  5. 345 says:

    I think when it comes to articles involving science, the comments section should be closed.

  6. Mrs Gump says:

    Stupid is what stupid does.

  7. anonymous says:

    Frozen mosquitoes will be discarded. How exactly? This devilish mix of e.coli, herpes and who knows what must be burned and someone from the public must be present to observe the process.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just because its all magic to you does not mean its bad. With your obvious level of intelligence it would be better for the island if you just left things that you don’t understand to the trained experts and go back to you potions and spells.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cayman kind at its best. If you don’t agree with me- get out. Your superior level of education speaks for itself.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh great and mighty scientists.
        Help us with our boils and cysts.
        For we have sinned against your perfect skill.
        Please please, make me another pill.

        Genetically modified, I don’t care,
        Let it come from your secret lair.
        Oh scientists, scientists please forgive me
        For ever doubting your honest fee.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why? The bits of herpes and e. coli in the mosquitoes are not infectious. That would be like saying you have to burn yard waste since it (probably) has e. coli on it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dwene you should thread very carefully. Did you not see what happened to a fellow Caymanian from West Bay who took a challenge to the Grand Court a few years ago and saw what the end result was ?

    Pregnant women and their husbands/boyfriends are already threatening to sue you personally if their babies are affected and deformed by the Zika Virus, which could be eliminated by as much as 97% if the GM mosquito was released.

    I see plenty of pregnant women in West Bay. Don’t forget, 2016 is a Leap Year and so plenty of babies will be born this year.

    • AlanP says:

      The Cayman islands have yet to see a single home grown case of Zika,let alone a deformed baby. One frightened husband has multiplied into husbands/boyfriends. Then someone is trying to frighten you with Chikungunia,Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Polio. LoL, the sky is falling. The peanut gallery mentality.

      • Jotnar says:

        We have more than 8000 work permit holders who go home and return here, or who are visited by friends and relatives, from countries where Zika is endemic. Zika can be spread by sex. Mosquitoes that bite an infected person can spread it to other – several others – as many as they bite. Our current control techniques are not reducing the Aedes population. What part of threat do you not understand? Does it honestly take a deformed baby before you are going to get worried – by which point we will have a very large resident population of the virus in the bloodstreams of people on the island, expats and residents alike.

        • Anonymous says:

          By your own admission…eliminating the AA mozzie will not eliminate the zika or any of the other diseases.

    • Anonymous says:

      The people or person who’s name are on the injunction are almost certainly looking at hefty legal fees. When the judge gets to hear the arguments and reasons for wanting the project to be stopped he/she is going to realize that the reasons are baseless and dismiss the case. However the frivolous arguments that are put forward will ensure that those who submitted the injunction will be deemed responsible for their own fees, the Government legal fees and Oxitecs legal fees. They might even be ordered to pay costs for the 750,000 mosquitoes that had to be killed plus other expenses incurred. I would love to know who’s name is actually on the injunction.. If it is a single person I would be very worried ; as rich financial supporters are not going to be liable for the fees just the person who’s name is on the injunction. Even a rich supporter may turn and run when they see a legal bill in the tens of thousands. I hope that the person who submitted the injunction had the foresight to get a cast iron contract with his financial supporters.

      • The end of Dwenes political aspirations says:

        Who is funding this idiocracy (I know its not a real word but there is no real word for this level of stupidity)? I think it is a Florida group as most Caymanians have better knowledge of what is going on here. I agree Dwene is probably looking at a hefty legal bill from all three parties involved. I bet the Oxitec lawyers are not cheap. My money says Dwenes sponsor will disappear when they see the bill.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is he Threading a stitch in time? Genius

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oxitec mosquitoes will not stop Zika. Many fingers are pointing that the GM mosquitoes were started by the release in Brazil. The release in the Florida Keys is being by the people due to insufficient data, cause and effect plus it’s very expensive. There is talk in the Florida Keys about “wolbachia”. A natural solution that lives right now in other insects.
    Start being proactive and make sure there are no containers that can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Be proactive it’s also about your own life or your family.
    Kudos to you all for standing up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Zika has been around over 50 years, decades before GM mosquitos were released in Brazil.

      This is just more stuff idiots believe on the internet.

      And “natural” solutions have led to some of the worst environmental disasters.

  10. People Over Profit says:

    As a resident of the Florida Keys who has followed this subject for five years after learning about it in college, I cannot condone an experiment on humans and environment such as this. This is an unprecedented release of an artificial subspecies of an invasive species. The genes are spliced with herpes virus and e. coli bacteria. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the science is that females, biting females, will also be released. There is no environmental impact assessment for long-term effects, no public health tests if these GM mosquitoes bite pregnant human women. The anti-science proponents are marketing this technology relentlessly and recklessly. XXXX The point is, there are better, more market-ready technologies available to us, such as Wolbachia. There are more cases of microcephaly in the U.S. which are completely unrelated to the zika virus. There is no causality between zika and microcephaly. Let the people decide.

    • Jotnar says:

      Studies show that Wolbachia may increase the incidence of other mosquito borne diseases like West Nile, so be careful what you ask for.

    • Jotnar says:

      Well, I am glad we are being advised by someone who has followed the subject for 5 years on social media after hearing about it in college, rather than the scientists of the MRCU or the WHO. I would far rather trust someone completely anonymous troll than listen to those so called scientists.

      • Anonymous says:

        What happened to the guy who runs the Dengue control unit Dr Wheeler. Why he saying nothing. Is he opposed to the GM mosquitoes? Seems strange to me

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is way too late folk. The evil creations have already been released.

  12. Unison says:

    Way-to-go Dwene! I applaud you and those behind in stopping through the courts, this experimentation from happening on the people of these islands.

    Loud and clear:

    1. Government has failed us in carrying out an independent risk assessment. Instead seem to have bent over to the special interest behind Oxitec! And,

    2. They have failed us in carrying out proper public consultation before voting in the LA to approve these experiments. This was approved secretly it seems before the public was informed of it.

    Alden and the silent bunch of MLAs should have known better. They are not going to forget due process and pull a fast one over the people of Cayman.

    • John says:

      They probably kept things quiet to prevent such an unnecessary uproar by a conservative public. It was done back in 2009, where’s the consequences you’re so afraid of? Zika is here, and GM is one of the few effective methods that we have to use against its vector species. When Zika flourishes in Cayman, and we turned down a valid option to prevent it, what other alternative will you suggest?

      • Anonymous says:

        Did it help Brazil?

      • Katina Masura Anglin says:

        Allow me to suggest a few right now:

        It’s a lot cheaper and works faster, bringing results in weeks and not months as required by the GMM’s; it’s 100% all natural and it’s effective. It actually blocks the transmission of the viruses to humans and it’s at the top of the WHO recommended methods to address the aA mosquito:

        “Specific recommendations

        2a. Microbial control of human pathogens in adult vectors (Wolbachia). Available evidence indicates that symbiotic Wolbachia spp. bacteria, when introduced into Ae. aegypti populations, reduce the mosquitoes’ ability to transmit arboviruses to humans. Laboratory results show that Wolbachia infection reduces viral replication of dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses within Aedes mosquitoes, and eliminates or substantially delays appearance of virus in mosquito saliva – reducing its competence for transmitting dengue viruses. The strategy involves establishing and sustaining Wolbachia in local Aedes spp. mosquito populations, thereby providing ongoing protection from virus transmission. ”

        Oxitec is using the employment of 4 young Caymanians as another way to justify their program.

        The employed 106-160 Caymanians to patrol the area identified as the release (“roll out”) area to manually destroy their breeding grounds and kept that assault on the aA mossies over the same 9 months.

        This is a 100% all natural, 100% safe method.

        And we can still keep the same 4 young Caymanians employed as well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hello Dwene.

    PLEASE set up a crowdfunding page so that we can contribute to the legal expenses.
    I am IN!.

    Oxitec on the other hand require no such assistance.

    Power to the people. Wolfie Smith!

    • Anonymous says:

      My friend Dwene you are going to need a fund because if I get infected with Zika I am going to sue you. I hope your lawyer has advised you about this liability.

      This action is rubbish and will go no where. I am trying to find out which one is worse this action or the crazy action to stop the closure of the west bay road.

      What a waste of public funds which is going to used to defend this bizarre action.

      • Anonymous says:

        Who will one sue when a GM bites or is ingested? E.coli & herpes. What happens when aedes aegypti male and GM female produce?

        • Mokes-for-all says:

          If you actually informed yourself before writing your comments, you would have read that the GM males are all infertile,so no chance of any mutant offspring.

          • Anonymous says:

            you are so gullible.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not infertile. But their offspring will not survive. Subtle difference.

            So, to answer the question, if a GM female reproduces, her offspring die. (The eggs hatch but the larvae do not pupate in to adults.)

            • Anonymous says:

              We’re seriously lacking information here: I understand that 50% of them can survive. So if 50% of the 0.03% of females survive, we have a of thousands of mossies with that h/e-c viruses flying around. I know Dr. P said that it was 100% risk-free (which in itself brought great question to my mind – nothing’s risk free – nothing), but based on what I read from them this morning, I’m not convinced that we’re getting all that we need to know on this.

              No support for it here.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Shouldn’t they be called “inactivists”??

  15. satirony says:

    70% of American foodstuffs on our supermarket shelves contain GM products, along with traces of carcinogenic Glyphosate, Neonicotinoids and transgenic insecticides, derived from soil bacteria. Why is Dwene not concerned about these? I have yet to come across a single, substantive, scientific reason to believe that sterile mosquitoes, of a species that is not even endemic to Cayman, could in any conceivable way be harmful to humans or any other life form.

    Has Dwene ever met a sufferer of Chikungunia? Has he seen a microcephalic child and seen the effect is has on the parents? And what about Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever? If there are any cases of these diseases proved to have been transmitted in Cayman, Dwene and his crew will have a lot to answer for.

    They remind me of those in Pakistan who actively prevent the immunization of children against Polio, as being the work of Western devils, no doubt, so preventing its final eradication from the Earth and condemning some of their children to a lifetime of paralysis in a wheel-chair. Well, Dwene, I sincerely hope you don’t contract Chikungunya, because it ain’t pretty.

    • anonymous says:

      3.50pm. You have a choice of not buying that American crap.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is science behind immunization so that is not a fair comparison. The FDA and WHO have not endorsed GM mosquitoes, they have said that more tests are required; the article above is wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        I really don’t think you are qualified to say what is scientific and what is not? The anti-GM lobby have proven time and time again that they are incapable of understanding scientific articles. That is why they spout nonsense such as there are only 10,000 wild Aedes aegypti in Cayman and that you can get Herpes and E. coli from the mosquito. They read but they do not understand. A little knowledge of a subject can be a dangerous thing. Their ignorance is putting peoples lives at risk.

  16. Anonymous says:

    yawn….. more cave mentality…..(caymanians against virtually everything)

    • Anonymous says:

      You are free to leave. No one is forcing you to live in our neanderthal neck of the woods.
      In fact, why would you even bother coming to a country full of simpletons with your vastly superior intellect?
      I am not even sure that I am worthy to breathe the same rarefied oxygen as you.
      Forgive me Massa. In an act of sincere restitution, I am available to chop some bush next week for you.

      Sanctimonious %&$#kstrap.

  17. Anonymous says:

    For those that want to understand the process: The Court can NOT review the merits of the Government’s decision. It can only review if the legal PROCESS in reaching the decision was followed. Right now, the Court has not ruled on the merits but only issued a delay so that they can consider the petition. It is a very low hurdle to get this type of delay. In other words, as long as the Government followed proper process in reaching the decision, this is going forward. Worst case, Government needs to go back and repeat the parts of the process they missed and then can go forward.

    • Anonymous says:

      A process that should have been handled better from the onset instead of ploughing ahead in their usual fashion. How much has this cost it? Not just the court costs but I’m sure these mosquitoes were not donated and are now being destroyed – thus if/when we move forward they will have to be purchased again.
      If they didn’t cost the country anything then I stand fully corrected!

  18. Ha ha! It's raining cats and dogs! says:

    Looks like Mother Nature is against the Oxitec mutant mosquito release also!

    • Good governance says:

      That’s the frightening part…rainy season brings more mosquitoes – this delay is not doing anyone any favours. This is a safe and proven method.

  19. NotNice says:

    BRAVO Dwene! You are a good man. I hope you see this comment im sure in the slew of negativity about to follow. You are a true patriot and I salute you for your service to this country. Down with oxitec. And also the shameful actions of our government. God Bless you.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Lets petition for the processed foods that causes cancer, the cigarettes that causes cancer, the sugary drinks that causes diabetes and the alcohol that damages the liver. Can the Dwene Ebanks and the activist start them? Also working 5 days a week is putting countless lives of local people at risk because they have to indulge in these things mentioned above alot in the short weekend. So Dwene….please start a new Petition!

  21. Mo Squito says:

    At what cost to the people of the Cayman Islands? Is Dwene going to be picking up the tab on this one?

  22. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of dummies.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Figh the government? No way you will win. What the governmewnt say in cayman-goes! Sorry- but as a caymanian, I have learnt that!

  24. Jotnar says:

    What the position going to be on who pays the costs of the judicial review? Last time around didn’t end so well for the plaintiff (also from West Bay, as I recall)

  25. ruddy says:

    Can you please provide a reference to the Florida test? There are no known tests to date that I am aware of. In fact much the opposite, a proposed test stopped in 2010 and much opposition to the release of GM mosquitos in the FL lets currently.

  26. Deathstar says:

    However Mr Ebanks, when my pregnant wife contracts Zika virus, as a result of your ignorant interference, you will be No. 1 on my list of people to sue.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Will someone from WB who contracts Zika be allowed to file suit against the activist group? Seems fair since the desease may not have been contracted if the GM mozzies are released.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I really hope this is not a political stunt on the part of Mr. Ebanks. With the outbreak of Zika and other viruses, peoples lives are at stake on this matter. I hope this is genuine concern for the public and not fear mongering for political position.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well if brexit has shown us fear mongering will get people to do what you want and after it does, you can quit and leave the same people to deal with the mess.

  29. Homo Sapiens says:

    West Bay Luddites

  30. Anonymous says:

    Ignorance kills, in this case the cost of ingornance will be from Zika

  31. Anonymous says:

    Do they have nothing else to do? Where’s the money coming from their these activists?

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