(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.
Category: Local News