GM mosquito release to begin next week

| 07/07/2016 | 56 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec (left) and MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie look over a batch of mosquito larvae being reared for next week’s release

(CNS): Officials from the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) have confirmed that the release of genetically modified mosquitoes will begin in West Bay next Thursday. The controversial project to try to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito using sterile males bio-engineered by the UK-based firm, Oxitec, has met with some community opposition but the government is fully behind the project, which scientists hope will provide an environmentally friendly, cost effective and efficient way of eliminating the invasive mosquito that transmits numerous diseases.

The release comes just a week after the first confirmed cases of Zika in the Cayman Islands. MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie has previously revealed the battle his team faces trying to control the Aedes aegypti due to its mounting resistance to insecticides and its proximity to humans.

The genetically engineered, non-biting sterile males, which will be released in the first phase of the island-wide project, will mate with local females. The subsequent offspring will then die before reaching adulthood, significantly reducing the population. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are not affected by the Aedes aegypti mosquito so the GM mosquitoes will not be released there.

The MRCU said that depending on the weather and other environmental conditions, the release will begin on Thursday, 14 July. The treatment area in West Bay comprises 300 acres between Watercourse Road, Powell Smith Lane, Rev. Blackman Road and Hell Road. In the region of 100 to 200 pots, each containing approximately a thousand male mosquitoes, will be released three times a week. The project is expect to last nine months.

“With our first confirmed cases of Zika, which were both imported, it is more important than ever that we get this additional control in place to help prevent any local transmission of mosquito-borne viruses,” Dr Petrie said. “We cannot stop mosquito-borne viruses from reaching our shores, but this technique will allow us to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti to help effectively prevent transmission.”

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended pilot deployment of the Oxitec technique, under operational conditions after the Zika outbreak was declared an international public health emergency.

Some residents mounted a petition and have tried to stop the release, as they believe there are still environmental and health concerns. However, the project was reviewed by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environment and the National Conservation Council before approval was granted.

Oxitec is also releasing the GM mosquitoes in Brazil in an area of 60,000 people, where residents have been severely affected by the Zika virus. The firm claims the technique is safe and efficient and has been demonstrated through field releases in East End in 2009 and 2010, as well as Brazil and Panama. The Aedes aegypti population was reduced by more than 90% in the areas where these releases took place.

“I remind the public that this technique has been through all the evaluation and approval stages relevant to the Cayman Islands,” said Dr Petrie. “This is an operational roll-out at a time when we are facing a public health imperative.”

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (56)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It looks as though we have no choice but to be the guinea pigs in this experiment.
    It is what it is and I’d like to close out by exercising my right to free speech and saying the following,

    “If this experiment is a good thing for the Cayman Islands and its people, I give it my every blessing.
    However, if this scheme is financially motivated or a devious social engineering experiment, I petition Almighty God to expose the lies in a way that will leave everyone in no doubt.”

    I have nothing else to say. Let’s just sit back and see what happens.
    Phew, that’s a load off. I should have given my burden to the Lord a long time ago.

  2. Allow me to make a few comments on this please, Dr. Petrie:

    1. “Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended pilot deployment of the Oxitec technique, under operational conditions after the Zika outbreak was declared an international public health emergency.”

    A: This is ONE of recommended methods to address the problem, and is actually not the highest rated release method. Additionally, this calls for the program to be independently supervised. Who’s going to supervise the project?

    2. “Some residents mounted a petition and have tried to stop the release, as they believe there are still environmental and health concerns. However, the project was reviewed by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environment and the National Conservation Council before approval was granted.”

    This is an ABSOLUTE LIE, evidenced in the Minutes of the NCC Meeting on 18th May 2016; And it is also evidenced that the Dept. of Agriculture approval would have came after the same mentioned meeting:…/…/11/NCC-2016-05-18-Agenda-Documents.pdf

    I would so much appreciate ANYONE can clarifying for me how CIG could have been SO informed with this vault of information that it claims to have had, even though some was not provided until 13th MAY 2016 and the contract had been signed on the 18th APRIL 2016, PRIOR to the information being supplied by MRCU and PRIOR to the NCC approving the application?

    Here’s my disclaimer: I am not a scientist; I have not commissioned any report; I fund no projects; I have no funds; I have my opinion and have provided the data that I found on the internet from regarded sources and made available by other reputable bodies; I have presented my concerns based on the reports sufficed by Oxigov; I have no investment in this project with exception to my human rights that I am entitled to. And I am uninformed. I am an unwilling participant in this experiment.

    • Beaumont says:

      Perfectly said. The resources available to us to research this mosquito release are dismal; it’s hardly scientific affirmation to rely upon Oxitec alone to produce safety data and health studies. That’s what we have. That’s all anybody has — the data that Oxitec produces. Oh, sure, the FDA said they were safe. I trust them SO much.

      The testing is being done here, primarily because we are an isolated system. If it all goes to hell, well, hey, no worries, it was contained in the Cayman Islands. Better luck next time.

      Where is the peer-reviewed scientific data? That which is not produced by Oxitec?

  3. Anonymous says:

    When someone is ignorant on a subject, those someones should not make a bunch of false claims and alarms. When someone is just plain stupid on top of being ignorant, those someones should definitely learn some wisdom and shut the F%^& up.

    • Unison says:

      Hey hey hey calm down chico! People are free to question. I don’t know about claims, but I have alot of questions. And besides the monies $$$$ those behind Oxitec will be getting from these experiments, we are being used like guinea pigs… can’t we not oppose something we don’t want.

    • I was ignorant on the subject, but I was smart enough to know I was ignorant on the subject and couldn’t sit down and shut up. That would just make me silently ignorant, but then again, you don’t seem to realise that when one is ignorant to something they should quest for the knowledge that makes them wiser and certainly wise to the topic on which they are ignorant.

      So like anyone with a bit more logic than you, I got my hands, mind and advice from other scientists (yes, they’re educated and licenced to speak about this topic) on this subject. No, I’m not unguided and making assumptions just to defame anyone, like you have just tried to do, though unsuccessfully.

      Now, on your second point of being stupid….well, it’s just a downright, outright, blatant fool that would call either of us stupid.

      Here’s a word of wisdom: don’t open your mouth to degrade someone by calling them a fool on a topic when they’re more educated on the topic than you are and prove to the nation just how much of a fool that you really are.

      Signed: Katina Masura Anglin

      Yes, I sign my name and don’t hide behind “anonymous”. I’m smart enough to know that true power comes in having freedom of speech. I practice that. Even at the risk of a fool calling me stupid.

  4. Jupiter Jack says:

    Why does oxitec have on their website that the GM mosquito has been 95 percent succesful in Grand Cayman when it hasnt even started yet?

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously? East End a few years ago……

      • Anonymous says:

        Well obviously it didnt work

        • Jotnar says:

          Ummm – it did, actually. Look at the results they published. Fact it worked a) in East End and b) for the duration of the study does not mean that you should expect to have reduced the number of Aedes Aegyptii c) in West Bay and d) well after they ceased releasing the mosquitoes. You understand that it does not eliminate the local population, but massively reduces it, right? But if you don’t keep up the releases, the remaining local population will breed and eventually replace the numbers.

  5. We have no idea of the long term impacts of introducing a GM modified mosquito into the ecosystem in Grand Cayman. No properly evaluated, peer-reviewed research, no prior long term review of any such impacts. Seems we are to be an experiment whether we like it or not.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes we do…. East End. God you people are so ignorant to what you’re even against.

      • Oxitec co-founder Luke Alphey is listed among the authors in almost every peer-reviewed journal says:

        No, we do not have properly evaluated, peer-reviewed research, Anonymous at 1:38pm.

        Mr. Keeley is correct because Oxitec has prevented its findings from being peer-reviewed from other scientists who are experts in this field WHO DO NOT HAVE CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS.

        This is because with the billions of dollars that Oxitec stands to make, and because of the proprietary nature of their technology, Oxitec has no incentive to allow its data to be analysed, or to allow their methodology replicated and assessed by AN INDEPENDENT GROUP any time soon.

        This was admitted by the Oxitec lead scientist Dr. Derric Nimmo at the 24th May West Bay Public Meeting when he stated the following at 35:29 to 36:01 minutes into the video:

        “And this is not just Oxitec with this information. I’d like to highlight with this invention, information has been done with independent collaborators all around the world.

        The MRCU was an independent collaborator. They had, umm, ahh, a lady called Angie Harrison working on it with us. She independently helped us with the trial, did the releases, got the data, she wrote up the paper, okay?

        So, this is not just us, ahh, saying this or looking at the technology.”
        -Dr. Derric Nimmo, Oxitec Production Development Manager

    • Anonymous says:

      “no prior long term review of any such impacts”

      This is not an idle experiment, where the alternative is “do nothing, no harm done”. “Do nothing” is to guarantee that Zika, (et al) will be transmitted in Cayman.

      The actual alternative is, get those diseases while trying to fight off the mosquitoes with masses of conventional insecticides which WILL have a harmful effect on our health and the environment.

      I choose the best alternative offered by science,and I would have thought another educated man would do likewise.

      • I choose to have 106 – 160 Caymanians employed to overturn the pans and pots and educate locals on how to set the traps and come back and overturn them – all easy but effective work in the elimination of the AA mosquito.

        Guess what else would have with this?

        1. No risk of side effects.

        2. Reduction in crime.

        3. Reduction of social and financial burden on NAU.

        4. Effective method of eliminating AA mosquito.

        5. Community involvement.

        6. Increase in GDP.

        7. Increase in standard of living for those employed for the next year.

        How about we investigate this angle?

        If a mosquito approach is necessary, then I will opt for the Wolbachia mosquito treatment option, which stops the transmittal of the pathogens to human beings.


  6. Mo Squito says:

    Praise be to Jesus.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I wouldnt trust these dudes with a fly swat.
    Why is the Zika virus patented by the GMO companies?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have a source for that? (Zika virus patented by anyone)

      • Annie says:

        It’s all about $$$; create a deadly virus then sell the cure for millions/billions.

        Oh, it’s ingenious, except hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die for someone else’s’ greed; so technically, it’s disgusting.

        Oh humanity; how we have not evolved. Genetically modified anything is just bad, simple.

        • Jotnar says:

          So your thesis is that Oxitec invented Zika in 1947 – when it was first scientifically identified – but have waited until now to cash in. Now that’s long term business model. Or of course, there is the possibility that you are talking complete paranoid tosh. Which of course would be consistent with the fact that you have no evidence whatsoever that Oxitec or anyone else have patented the virus.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think that’s the speculation, but then Pablo Escobar didn’t invent the cocoa tree.

            It’s really great though, how Zika broke out in a Ugandan forest; HIV/AIDS also. How scientists who shed light on these types of occurrences end up dead not long after.

  8. Anonymous says:

    WHO has also given Rio the green light to go ahead with Olympic games in spite of the Zika prob there. Hmm

  9. Beaumont says:

    This manner of potentially harmful (or hopefully helpful) change should require a referendum to decide. We will all be affected. We should all have a vote in our own welfare.

  10. Cayman Lab Rat says:

    I might have had more trust in this experimental approach using GMO’d mosquitos if it weren’t for MRCU’s less than transparent nature regarding it’s current and past use of pesticides and their specific chemical makeup. MRCU should know from experience that withholding information about your chemical pesticide program might indicate that you probably have something to hide or have doubts about how and if this GMO experiment will work.

    • Anonymous says:

      Really? Have you even tried to find this information?

      Here is a link to a list of the chemicals they are using/have used from their website:

      Here is a link to their Freedom of Information page of their website where they explain exactly how to request information, AND, provide documents supplied in response to previous FOI requests.

      Troll much?


    • Beaumont says:

      You note all the “troll” tags? We must have hit a nerve.

  11. Unison says:

    Another thing and this for our government MLAs – THIS EXPERIMENT ON THE PEOPLE IS SETTING A BAD PRECEDENT.

    Why? Because it will encourage more scientists (rejected by other countries) to want to do their experiments here in Cayman.

  12. Unison says:

    I still haven’t got the answer to my question: What happens when you release all those millions of male mosquitoes and just some how females are in the mix, and one of them bite someone???


    • Anonymous says:

      nothing will happen other than you will have a mossie bite

      Now you have your rather obvious answer

    • anonymous says:

      Don’t ask me. Call them up and ask.

    • Anonymous says:

      there are no “females in the mix”. they are males

      • Anonymous says:

        While I support the release of the GM mosquitoes I also recognize that a few female mosquitoes will end up being released. They do sort based on sex but Oxitec themselves acknowledge less than 1% of those released are female. Not zero, but close.

    • Anonymous says:

      You have no answers because you are lacking common sense! What happens if we do nothing and you have millions more of the same female mosquitoes biting you? DUH …

    • Anonymous says:

      I can answer this. Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito….Same thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      What happens if you get bit by a GM female mosquito is the same that happens if you get bit by an un-modified “natural” mosquito. You might have no reaction. You might have a bit of localized swelling, itching, or rash. A few people are seriously allergic to mosquito bites and if you are one of these people then such a bite might provoke a serious reaction just like a bite from a non-GM mosquito.

      Mosquitoes do not transmit their DNA to humans via saliva conveyed in a bite. GM mosquitoes are no different in this regard. Mosquitoes do sometimes carry pathogens that causes diseases such as Zika, Dengue, or Malaria any hypothetically a GM or non-GM mosquito could transmit such a pathogen if it bites an infected person before biting you.

      Now you have your answer.

    • Anonymous says:

      it cant be the same as a normal mozzie bite….maybe its like spiderman where he gets bitten by a spider except in this case we start producing West Bayer’s with supernatural powers

    • Anonymous says:

      You do realise that these gm mozzies are not infected with any viruses, right?? They are modified to kill offspring. Female bites and you just have an annoying red spot.

  13. anonymous says:

    There’s no fool like a fool who is frightened by a blown out of proportion danger.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Finally! Can’t wait to see the outcome and feel better about the fact that we are tackling these bad mozzies head on.

  15. Haranguer says:

    Let my mosquitos free!

  16. Anonymous says:

    The constitution in Cayman is of no value. These experiments on the people will come back and bite Alden on the ass.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Bring it on, I’m directly in the middle of the release area in the West Bay district. I hate the feeling of F#@$%^& mosquitoes bitting my ass every evening, while trying to relax in my comfy hammock.

    What’s all the fuss about ? It was done in East End several years ago during a pilot project and the results indicated that the Aides Aegypti mosquito population was decreased by 97% in that district.

    Did you see any negative effects in the East End district other than still having to hear and deal with the usual one or two loud mouths; that existed prior to the release ?

    I hope MRCU And OXITEC could develop an additional GM mosquito – that could stop all the lying, blabbing loud mouths throughout the Cayman Islands, including Donald Trump in the United States.

    Now that would be an absolutely great invention for the 21st century and would be worth a “Nobel Peace Prize”

  18. Allar says:

    If Dr. Petrie is involved I am content as he is a brilliant man. Cayman no fears Bill is there.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I heard these famous Dr and scientist say on the radio that this project is to kill one type of mosquitoes..My question is if we have 35 different type why not try create a mosquito to kill ALL types as ALL TYPES are nuisance…Also if this project don’t work as plan who is going collect and count to make sure we got them all back in MRCU under the good Dr desk…Listen too the people we don’t no modified creatures in West Bay..

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is fake science from fake people who stand to make a load of money from this. Fool on us for being so gullible.

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