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Stay lifted paving way for GM mosquito release

| 26/07/2016 | 28 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 release

(CNS): The Mosquito Research and Control Unit has been given the greenlight by the court to begin the controversial release of the genetically modified bio-engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes after Justice Ingrid Mangatal lifted the stay on the project. Kerrie Cox, the lawyer representing the local activists trying to halt the project until an independent risk assessment is undertaken, was unable to persuade the judge to extend the stay for just one week to enable their appeal to be filed.

After the judge delivered her full ruling to the parties involved at noon, Cox gave a broad outline of what he saw as immediate possible grounds for appeal and argued that in the interest of justice and in order not to undermine the appeal the judge should grant a further stay.

Pointing to what he said were factual errors, the inadequate weight given to the public consultation failures and misinformation given by public officials, including the premier, about the release, Cox pressed upon the judge that Cayman was being used as a guinea pig in this project, as he urged her to retain the stay.

However, Solicitor General Jacqueline Wilson argued successfully that there were no grounds for appeal and that the applicants had not produced any evidence that this project presented any genuine public health risk. Given the time-sensitive nature of the project, it was in the interest of justice that the stay was lifted, she told the court.

The judge stated that she would not make the applicants pay the government’s legal costs in the case because she felt it was not a frivolous case and they had not acted unreasonably.

Following the ruling, Dwene Ebanks, who brought the case on behalf of a much wider group of people opposed to the release, said that although the stay had been lifted and the release of the GM mosquitoes was now likely, they would still be examining the possibility of appeal.

Ebanks denied that the international conservation charity Friends of the Earth was financing the project, as had been suggested by one local newspaper Tuesday, but declined to say who was paying for the legal action.

MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie said he wanted to begin the planned release as soon as possible and hoped it would be in a matter of days rather than weeks. He said the MRCU would be making an announcement as soon as possible but they were pleased at the judgment of the court that the application for judicial review was rejected and that an application for an extended stay was refused.

“It is important now that we are able to get on with the job as there is some urgency from the public health perspective. We need to get the project back on track and put in place the preventative measures to reduce the risk of local transmission of mosquito-borne diseases,” he added.

Check back to CNS later for details of the judge’s ruling.

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Category: environmental health, Health, health and safety

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Still don’t understand some things:

    1. Why are you attacking one of your own who asked questions on a topic he didn’t understand?

    2. Why are you not asking questions yourself about a process not fully understood by many in our communities (please note: I have a degree and I don’t understand a lot of it, but you may have a greater anticipatory capacity than I do)?

    3. Why are UK and USA resisting their release but CI are welcoming, actually fighting, to have it released?

    4. Why hasn’t the Premier clarified to the country recently that it is not an all-male release (I understand that it will not be and that the females are aedis Aegypti so they can spread disease also)?

    5. Will there be a way of testing the people to see if there are any new strains building in their bloods over a period of time?

    6. How will we know that there claims to success are true and correct? Will there be independent assessments?

    Just looking for answers and not to be attacked, please.




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    • Anonymous says:

      1. Dwene went beyond asking questions, and put in place a legal delay in response to a national impending health crisis by seeking judicial review, In my opinion he and his unknown financial backers manipulated the system by deliberately waiting for hours before the intended release, so as to cause the greatest disruption. He says that the source of his funding is no business but his own, but consider this: In the legal hearing, our own Caymanians, the Conservation Council, Department of the Environment etc. relied entirely on local legal support, while Dwene had highly expensive top legal representation in the form of QC’s from the UK. I am pretty sure he did not pay for that, and he is unwilling to tell us who did.

      2. A great effort has been made to inform the public, but some people just don’t listen. Only today, Cayman New Service has published a viewpoint challenging the release. They do not identify the author, but someone with the pseudonym MM has claimed the piece. Earlier today MM responded to a question as to why East End and West Bay were chosen by stating”

      MM says:

      28/07/2016 at 9:07 am
      East End and West Bay have the largest swamp areas on island – the choice of these locations should be obvious”

      That is neither true, nor relevant. Bodden Town and North Side have the greatest extent of swamp, but far more important, the Aedes egypti mosquito is not a swamp breeder, living exclusively around human habitation. MM has proven themselves guilty of providing inaccurate information, and far more profoundly, of lacking a scientific knowledge of these disease carrying mosquitoes. This does not in itself change any of the facts, but I caution you to be wary of their other statements.

      3. Activists in the Florida Keys have managed to delay things, That does not equate to the public health officials or mosquito control people being against this. Quite the opposite. I don’t know the UK position. Do you?

      4, A tiny fraction of 1% may be females. So What? There are thousands of regular females in the wild, and a bite from them will be the same, except that the latter may well carry the Zica/Dengue/Chikungunya virus, The released mosquitoes do not live long enough to incubate and transmit the virus. It is not a case of bite a victim with Zica, then bite someone else to infect them. The virus has to develop in the mosquito before it can be transmitted,

      5. Not sure I understand your question.

      6. The MRCU has been doing regular assessments of mosquitoes for well over 30 years, using light traps. As I am not an employee, I cannot tell you for sure what they will be recording, but as a scientist, I expect they will be monitoring the traps in the general area of release, to count the numbers of male and female Ae mosquitoes, before and after the release.The GM mosquito is easily identified by a fluorescent marker gene, so it will be easy to see which are introduced and which are not (though Ae is an invasive species), and also to confirm that the GM trait does not survive if no new GM mosquitoes are released.

      Truthseeker




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  2. Anonymous says:

    Now that the stay has been lifted, perhaps the MRCU, DoE, NCC, The Premier, the Ministry of Health, or the Judge (of all others fail us) can be open and transparent, as ordered by the Court, and let the people of the Cayman Islands know the following:

    1. What is the schedule/plan by the MRCU/Government for further GMM releases in the Cayman Islands (surely NWPoint is not the only place the ‘bad’ mosquito lives)?

    2. If MRCU/Govt says there is no plan, why is there no schedule or plan for any further releases?

    3. What is the cost to the Government for arranging all of the GMM releases in the Cayman Islands?

    Oh, and Mr. Premier, I am not a politician and this is not politics. I simply want to know what the Govt future plans are for GMM releases.

    Dr. Petrie, Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie, or Mrs. Rose-Smythe, perhaps you can help to educate your fellow Caymanian people on the Govts plans for future GMM releases in the Cayman Islands?




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  3. Anonymous says:

    Your judicial system have failed you . It doesn’t protect you as it should.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    http://www.nature.com/news/brazil-asks-whether-zika-acts-alone-to-cause-birth-defects-1.20309. Brazil is questioning whether Zika alone is causing birth defects.




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  5. Anonymous says:

    Why not have dart get a super mosquito swatter and save the island from people with tiny heads




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  6. Anonymous says:

    Great news and decision by the court. I will cease using OFF and any Mozzie spray to give the GM bugs the best chance in life and do their little job. GO mozzies




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  7. Anonymous says:

    I am very analytical with unique ability to make the pressing immediate decisions that often require, strong, sound judgement calls . High in emotional intelligence skills. PRICELESS!




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  8. Unison says:

    When the Zika scare is over and they done use us like lab rats, another scare will arise. The scare was has served its purpose and when something serious happens, these same people can afford to buy a plane ticket and flee the country. And don’t be surprise our own Caymanian well-off supporting Oxitec got themselves book on the flight out.




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  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m so pleased..a great victory for justice …please stop the appeals JR etc. We will live to thank MRCU just like we thank Dart for the West Bay Road.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Some of you people don’t have clue, mosquito eggs are being injected herpes
      simplex and ecoli and cabbage and coral.
      That is the genetic material that the premier was talking about, well I all ready know he is clueless.




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  10. Anonymous says:

    A flawed decision by this judge. Once again the caymanian public has had another government ran something down their throat without due process. Well done on those who cared enough to try and stop this craziness.




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    • Anonymous says:

      I thought the judge ruled that there was due process?




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    • David S. says:

      Sit back and let the professionals handle it. Like they said, ” there were no grounds for appeal and that the applicants had not produced any evidence that this project presented any genuine public health risk. ” This is a real issue, not something to be stopped simply because they don’t understand the technology behind it.




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      • Anonymous says:

        That’s issue…..the company did not produce any evidence that the project is safe….oh i forgot, the risk assessment they did back in 2009. Glad you sleep well at night with this.




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        • Anonymous says:

          In addition to forgetting that a risk assessment had already been done it appears you also failed to realize that because there was already evidence to show the project was safe the onus was on you to show why the project was not safe. The judge quite rightly found that you did not do this. Not one of the long list of false claims and scare mongering stories was found to be legitimate. I would like to call for friends of the earth of whoever else funded this campaign to pay Cayman back the money that this has cost the country.




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    • pproved? says:

      Due process doesn’t mean you get your way. It means you get a hearing. In this case you don’t win because you have no evidence.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Except the due process i reference is talking about the decision-making process and not the court hearing you daft.




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    • Anonymous says:

      7:24 @ 26/7 — we just had our due process, thank you. The project was put on hold, the court heard the case and ruled. That is what you call due process .




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  11. Anonymous says:

    a rare victory for common sense in the cayman islands……




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    • Unison says:

      Common sense tells you to look before you jump. Have an independent assessment before trying tests on your own people!




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  12. Anonymous says:

    At last, the Luddites have been moved aside for the safety of us all.




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  13. Anonymous says:

    There is no word on this matter from McKeeva Bush. Let me explain why.
    When he was premier (I use lower case p on purpose), Oxitec released their first batch of blood-sucking demons and he was in the know. Did money change hands? I do not know, so let us give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Anyway, it is hysterical how the genetically-modified chickens are coming home to roost.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Love him or hate him; Mr. Bush is an intelligent man who knows when to keep out of a no win argument




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  14. Anonymous says:

    Great decision. Dwene please go away now – don’t you have a real job or something else to do?




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  15. satirony says:

    Sanity prevails.




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