(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.