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Judge calls for ‘rigorous monitoring’ of GM mosquito release

| 27/07/2016 | 21 Comments
Cayman News Service

Genetically modified mosquito containers

(CNS): Justice Ingrid Mangatal called on the local authorities to ensure ongoing “rigorous monitoring and independent evaluation” of the genetically modified mosquito project as well as “earnest” public outreach after she cleared the way Tuesday for the release of millions of bio-engineered bugs in West Bay. In the written ruling, which was released yesterday, the judge found that the Department of Environment and the National Conservation Council had not acted unfairly or irrationally when they approved the licence application by the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) or that insufficient public consultation had taken place.

The application for judicial review was made by Dwene Ebanks, who was representing a local group of activists who are opposed to the release because they do not believe the local authorities can be sure the project is safe. However, Mangatal refused to overturn the decisions made by the relevant authorities.

The judge’s decision focused heavily on the fact that the mosquitoes had already been released in East End in 2009 and 2010, despite the fact that today there is a very different regime for the protection of the environment with the advent of the National Conservation Law and the Bill of Rights.

The activists had pointed out that the first release breached a number of international protocols and the risk assessment, which was conducted after the release by Oxitec, the company which has created the bio-engineered Aedes aegypti, was also very limited.

They had argued that the forthcoming releases would be in a different place in different conditions at a different time, Claiming that officials had attempted to shut down those questioning or opposing the release, they said there had been only limited public debate about the issues and that the information disseminated had not been entirely accurate, and in some cases false or misleading.

Ebanks had also pointed to the infancy of the science. Although he did not present direct evidence of public health risks, he had argued that no one knows what those risks could be yet, which was why an independent risk assessment should be made before the mutant mosquitoes are released in densely populated areas.

But Mangatal pointed to the claims by the medical director of health that there appeared to be no risks posed to the public or to the environment following the East End trials and that no one in an official capacity has presented any concerns or potential dangers. The judge found that the NCC and the DoE had given due consideration to the possible risks and had carried out their proper functions before approving the application.

Justice Mangatal accepted the MRCU’s position regarding the urgency of controlling the mosquito before the rainy season reaches its peak, and also took into account the rearing of the eggs in preparation for the trial project and the long period that the MRCU director has spent examining and researching the technology used by Oxitec.

Nevertheless, she pressed the various agencies involved to ensure the ongoing close scrutiny of the project and to continue seeking public feedback.

The judge added that the court now expects the DoE and the NCC to put in place the necessary criteria and procedures as well as subsidiary legislation to deal with issues such as this, which are not yet in place as the entire conservation law is still not fully implemented.

Draft Judgment – Judicial Review 26 July 2016 GM mosquito release

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Category: Local News

Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m still trying to understand all this:

    The judge said that they must get the process in order, but they can still release them? Doesn’t that statement mean that the process was wrong in the first place? And then, release them with these requirements still out of place? Why hasn’t an independent source been identified to oversee the process prior to their release?

    I WANT A LAWYER TOO! THIS IS WRONG!!!!!




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  2. Anonymous says:

    An ankle bracelet on every mosquito released will do the trick.




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  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it just me? Something is not adding up with this judgment. It sounds like those folks have a case. The judge orders for the departments to get their processes in-place. That says there was little to none. Is that not one of the things at the heart of this case? How can she say then there are no grounds? This all smells very fishy. This is a flawed judgment if I ever hear one.




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    • anonymous says:

      The land of the strange judgements. Child molesters get months, vehicular homicide-one to two year, sadistic bodily injuries with a knife- three years. Crime against property-25 years!!!
      So this judgement did not surprise me either.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Most child molesters get away scotfree as family members are loathe to prosecute their own.Locals charged with theft always choose a jury trial and it pays off.




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    • MM says:

      Unfortunately the judges ruling is accurate because our jurisdiction lacks detailed legislation for the Applicant to apply to their grounds. I could have seen this result coming easily simply because our land and legislators did not construct our laws anticipating such a project on our shores.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    East End and West Bay releases because they are the only 2 district with culture and where the caymanian is not a minority. George Town by the airport would been the best place if they had goals to try stop zika.




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  5. Knot S Smart says:

    Den Bayers going be clapping dem skittas…




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  6. Anonymous says:

    Apparently there is an need for urgency to release the GM mosquito to protect us all from Zika Chikengunya and Dengue. If this is the case why is it only being released in a small area of West Bay? How is this going to protect the rest of the island? For many years Cayman has been free from diseases that are common in the rest of the Caribbean and this has been done without releasing genetically modified mosquitoes. Are we now going to abandon whatever succesful methods we have been using to pay for the GM mosquitoes. Can MRCU honestly say that this release is going to protect Cayman from diseases or is it just an experiment that will not benefit the island but will benefit Oxitec?




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    • MM says:

      I do not know how it can protect Cayman when it has been unable to protect Brazil who were given the same promises and pitches that we are now getting here – I do realize the Cayman public is missing the entire bigger picture although most people smell a rat….




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    • Anonymous says:

      Deployment begins there because they have the highest concentration of these mosquitos and the only death from them. Not to worry … The rest of the island will also be done.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Will this be done in time to prevent zika being spread? Is this an experiment or a real way of preventing us from getting the disease? If it is an experiment why is cayman paying oxitec to get the results they want? if it is really trying to protect us why not treat a much bigger area?




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    • Anonymous says:

      Because it is a “controlled experiment” to prove its cost local effectiveness. West Bay has high Ae infestation.




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  7. Anonymous says:

    where is the definition of the “rigorous monitoring”? How can it will be practically accomplished? attaching a tracking device to every mosquito and equipping independent evaluators with microscope to make sure each and every GM does what it was intended to do? Monitoring what constitutes “love and marriage” in mosquitoes life? Death certificate for each GM mosquito? Tracking every critter that eats GM mosquito before it dies and then monitoring that critter? What credentials independent evaluators must have?
    What a joke.
    Doesn’t constitution of the CI guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons
    distributed either by private individuals or by public officials? Protecting the environment and future generations?
    Where scientific evidence is preliminary and not yet conclusive regarding the experiment it
    is prudent to adopt ‘precautionary principles’ in protecting the environment, citizens and future generations.




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  8. Anonymous says:

    Possibly the West Bay protestors lost sight of the fact that every meal they eat has genetically modified chicken , beef , corn , maize , other vegetables of varying types. The food the cattle are given to eat is genetically modified. This is obviously ok with them .




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    • Anonymous says:

      let us, the Westbayers, chose what GM modified food we will eat and stop bringing GM mosqutoes into the mix, because WE choose what we eat and (now) we can’t choose not to be exposed to GM mosquitoes.

      A> Corn is modified with genetic material from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. One of the most prominent GMO foods, avoiding corn is a no-brainer.
      B> Papaya and Banana. Viral genes encoding capsid proteins were transferred to the papaya genome.
      C> Soy- with genetic material from Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4;soy mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat, and fat. I don’t know who in their right mind will eat food that contains GM soy.
      D> Sugar Beets. Nearly 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet production is grown from genetically modified seeds.




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  9. Satirony says:

    As one scientist in Florida remarked, regarding the release of sterilized mosquitoes, you can’t argue someone out of a position using logic and science, if they’ve adopted their position with just emotion.




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  10. Anonymous says:

    Rigorous monitoring – then they should be released one by one in the presence of an independent observer (civil servant suspended indefinitely on full pay).




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