To GMO or not to GMO?

| 28/07/2016 | 49 Comments

Cayman News ServiceMM writes: It is no secret that the bite of a mosquito brings great displeasure – for Pete’s sake, it has ruined my evening walk, I fear leaving my front door open, and walking to my car from my home has become an issue of prepare and dash. Standing outside for more than ten seconds feels like I am under a strategic and collaborated attack by mini air fighters; mosquitos are no fun and I agree they must be dealt with. All this coupled with the chance of being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito is more than I can handle.

Whether it be chikungunya, dengue fever, Zika, West Nile or malaria – this pesky little creatures sure know how to spread chaos and suffering. It is also fair to say that every mosquito-borne illness I have just listed appear with the same symptoms: the typical sudden, high fever, severe headaches, pain or irritation of the eyes, joint and muscle pain, flu-like symptoms and a rash.

Despite the sheer aggravation of the potential of such a health epidemic and the similarities of each of these mosquito-borne diseases, Zika by far tops the list that causes me the greatest concern, and this is because it is now linked with microcephaly.

I do believe that we in the Cayman Islands are having a difficult time grasping the true effects of this horrid birth-defect. But because of it and the chance of Zika, it is now prompting the swift release of the “friendly mosquito”.

We are all very familiar with the ever-going debate and recent court action to halt the release of the “frankin-skeeter”, a mosquito with genes that stop it from fully maturing.

Truly, I commend all who would attempt to put an end to me getting bitten, but I have been getting bitten by mosquitos for almost thirty years now and I am okay with waiting a little while longer until solid scientific (and unbiased, independent) research is provided on these lab-created species of mosquito.

I am thoroughly unconvinced by the three previous trials for a number of reasons, and I will list these out below:

2009 East End, Grand Cayman release

Apparently, at that time a little over 3 million GMO mosquitos were released in East End. This number is a far lesser scale release than the proposed release of 22 million. The only time this number of GMO mosquitos has been released in to the wild was in Brazil between 2012 and 2014.

2010 Malaysian Forest release

According to records of the Malaysian Institute of Medical Research, there were only 6,000 GMO mosquitos released in an uninhabited forest area during a three-month period. This does not seem like sufficient time, circumstances or location to base a study that human health ultimately relies upon to determine the release of an unnatural species in to a human inhabited environment.

2014 Brazil Release

In this year Oxitec released its first and only large-scale release of GMO mosquitos after setting up shop in Brazil to farm them. The intention was to stop the frequent and drastic outbreaks of dengue in Brazil. This would be all well and dandy if the figures of mosquito-borne diseases in Brazil had presented themselves on a decline. However, to the contrary, in 2015 Brazil announced an epidemic of ‘Zika’.

Recent study and releases of Zika has placed it as a disease first identified in 1947; whereas other sources say it was first identified in humans in 1952. Whenever it was identified, the first links to microcephaly have been made from Zika-stricken pregnant mothers in Brazil and just since 2015, around October some sources say.

It was recently broadcast on live radio here in Cayman that studies of the Zika virus were conducted on human subjects as early as 1930’s; the speaker then said 1947, sources online say it was first found in humans in 1952. Whatever year it was, there has seemingly been no discussion of microcephaly related to Zika or to babies being born between the 1930’s to 1950’s with abnormally small heads.

With that said, there have apparently been cases of microcephaly (which essentially means “smallheadedness”) going back to the 20th century. But, the information currently being released about microcephaly indicates a shortened life-span of the infected infants – popular cases of early microcephaly in humans shows that the person effected lived well until the ages of seventy or eighty years old in the 20th century.

Now, when we consider that recent finds and research of microcephaly links it to birth defects, primarily the small head, and life-long complications of vision, hearing and intellectual incapacity (underdevelopment) and shortened life expectancy, one has to wonder. A small head is really a sign of haltered brain development. It is simply too much coincidence that the babies of Zika-infected women are affected with similar ailments to that of a GMO mosquito regardless of its similarities to microcephaly cases of the past.

It is clear to see that though many viruses and diseases carry similar or identical symptoms and are even contracted in similar or identical ways – this should not be the defining moment where we humans link it to what seems to be the most obvious disease, virus or cause thereof.

Besides the fact that Zika comes with the usual mosquito-borne disease symptoms of fever, rash, flu-like symptoms and yadda, yadda, it also has this inescapable chance of an unborn baby being affected by ‘microcephaly’, which is why the cry for the release of the GMO mosquitos is so loud.

However, when we step back and filter some of the information (or lack thereof) being presented in an apparently biased form, it begs us to question; why is it that despite the presence of a GMO Mosquito farm in Brazil there is right now a very serious epidemic of Zika and every-increasing?

As a rather logical person, I do not believe that applying one failed solution to the same problem will yield any different result. So how can we logically wish to release millions of mosquitos to alleviate a problem that did not arise in other test zones until AFTER the release of same? This is a fine example of irrational.

It begs to question exactly what structured reports, scientific findings and expert analysis has really been applied during the decision-making process of our local authorities. I, for one, do not believe in taking chances that involve my health and well-being.

During the GMMozzie release in Brazil to combat dengue (and during an ongoing dengue outbreak) came the undeniable emergence of Zika. And to this day, both Zika and dengue have paired up to wreak havoc in Brazil despite GMMozzie and Oxitec presence.

Let us now consider that these mosquitoes are simply modified to not grow and simply die before maturing – they can still mate, still fly, still eat and still bite (considering if a female GMO gets released too, and there is a chance). It has also been noted that there is a chance that the life-shortening gene of the mozzie may delay after release and the mosquito can go on to live a long and health mosquito life, especially if it somehow finds the antidote while it is happily on parole in our environment.

The idea of a mosquito that pretty much kills its species is a fantastic idea, do not get me wrong with all this. But the evidence to support the effectiveness, safety and rationality of releasing the species here in Grand Cayman at the greatest unprecedented scale simply does not exist (especially when based around Oxitec’s first and only [as of date] grand scale release of GMOs in Brazil).

It would be far more sensible, and ethical, to complete whatever research is ongoing in Brazil and bring forth evidence to support that the GMO mosquito presence has saved the day there. Instead Oxitec appears to be moving on to a new zone after a very seemingly bloopered disbursement of these creatures in that country. And what better location than one that lacks the legislation or sensible heads of government to pose the right, pressing questions, such as: what has hindered Oxitec’s success in Brazil?

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  1. Sharkey says:

    What I say is make sure that you properly document ever GM mosquitoes that bite you . Keep in formed by MRCU on any other decease that is happening in the Cayman Islands and the mosquitoes business .

    But a very interesting view point.

  2. pproved? says:

    It’s too bad that CNS continues to give prominence to unfounded claims like this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your tone is smooth, but your logic is deeply flawed. Lots of hand waving broad claims, but no relevant evidence.

    And please, please learn what petitio principii actually means before you continue to “beg questions”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The obvious solution is for all the churches that benefited from Mckeeva’s largesse to pray for the death of every mosquito. If it works the taxpayer will see at last see some actual results from the big giveaway.

  5. MM says:

    Oxitec convinced the Brazilian government to allow them to release the mozzies on the basis that they would combat their dengue problem – 2015 dengue fever numbers found on the Brazil gov website indicate a tripling of dengue numbers.

    Of course, when this question was posed to Oxi, the reply was “dengue is a disease that spikes and goes down” – oooook, so how did you intend to help brazil then?

    Oxitec’s website states the mozzies were released in April 2015 in Brazil (although old news articles note they were being released as early as 2011)

    The dengue numbers in Brazil in Piracicaba, Sao Paula (the release city of 2015 according to Oxitec’s website) for 2014 were 219,926; dengue numbers in the same city for 2015 were 711,298…. for a total number of cases in the “Sudeste” region of Brazil of 975,505 in 2015 compared to a total of 301,546 in 2014. The highest outbreak recorded since records began in 1990.

    So of course Oxi says that these things take time… if the mosquitos die in 3 days, mate and lay eggs with that timeframe, I would not expect that this has to be some 5 or 10 year period kind of project…

    And let’s not get started on Brazil inacting legislation in 2014 to make it a criminal offence to share Zika data, findings and studies outside of Brazil….

    And also, please have a look at total Dengue numbers for “Nordeste” when visiting that link (and before someone takes it all down)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Microcephaly has been around for years. It was back in 1982 when I first got a little head.

  7. Anonymous says:

    These are not arguments against anything, just a series of logical fallacies. (Mostly this one:

    What on earth would we have to fear from a mosquito that has been genetically modified? Every mosquito has DNA, and every mosquito’s DNA is as unique as that of human beings. Are we at risk of “DNA infection” from regular mosquitos?

    Left alone for decades a species DNA will be “genetically modified” through evolution (you may say this would take millions of years but given the day long life span of a mosquito, a decade is the equivalent of millions of years of human evolution). All Oxitec have done is essentially direct this process to amplify a chosen characteristic (infertility) rather than one advantageous to the mosquito’s natural environment.

    In fact it is this evolutionary process that makes this method superior to larvicides and insecticides which mosquitos will evolve a resistance to. (The mosquitoes least affected by insecticide will thrive). This human intervention itself is therefore a form of genetic manipulation (albeit inadvertent).

    DNA cannot be transmitted from one species to another anymore than it can be transferred between human beings through contact or any other method.

    Plants have DNA. Animals have DNA. If it were possible to be “infected” with the DNA of another species you would think there would be no better way than ingesting that species in significant quantities on a frequent basis! Yet to my knowledge West-Bayers are not slowly turning into the turtles whose meat they regularly consume. Nor are the Japanese turning into tuna, nor Americans into cows.

    There are no recorded cases of a human turning into a dog after a dog bite. Why on earth would someone inherit DNA from a mosquito during a mosquito bite?

    Are you saying these mosquitos are engineered to carry a virus? Any evidence of this? Is it even possible? Why would Oxitech do this and destroy their business?

    If we cannot “catch” DNA (engineered or otherwise) or any virus from these mosquitoes, what is your theory about the risk to humans exactly?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you know what AUTOIMMUNE and AUTONOMIC disorders are? Autoimmune disease affects up to 50 million Americans! 50,000,000! More than 15%.
      So when Paul Reiter (a specialist in mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases), says”despite the fact that nearly all corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified and that Americans have been eating the stuff for 20 years without problem.” I want to ask him, Then why Americans are the sickest people on the planet? Nearly 60 percent of Americans — the highest ever — are taking prescription drugs
      Your “Nor are the Japanese turning into tuna, nor Americans into cows.” could have come from a 3d grader, not an educated adult.
      I will educate you with 1 sentences: The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire.
      So no, you won’t turn into a tuna or cow. But you might not escape AUTOIMMUNE and AUTONOMIC disorders. And those are not fun and there is no cure. And they are invisible.

      • Anonymous says:

        Completely separate issues. Americans have crappy diets and this causes disease and other disorders. There is no evidence that this is caused by DNA from genetically modified food. There is much greater anecdotal evidence (since pretty much every American eats it) that it causes no problem. The point is that anecdotal evidence is worthless.

        Correlation is not causation.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Quotes below are not to create fear of getting ill, but to understand that all these experiments, while won’t turn a human into a cow or a tuna, as 6:05 am commented, they are not harmless. To find the source, just google.

        “The numbers are staggering: one in twelve Americans—and one in nine women—will develop an autoimmune disorder. . In some cases, autoimmune diseases are three times more common now than they were several decades ago. These changes are not due to increased recognition of these disorders or altered diagnostic criteria. Rather, more people are getting autoimmune disorders than ever before.
        Something in our environment is creating this crisis.

        Something is causing the immune system to increasingly make mistakes in which the line becomes blurred, the immune system attacks the body itself, and autoimmune disease occurs. In all likelihood, much of the reason for this often catastrophic mistake of the immune system comes from the countless environmental toxins to which we are currently exposed—toxins that interfere with the way the immune system communicates with the rest of the body.

        And since it is clear that not every patient with an autoimmune disease is correctly diagnosed, the prevalence is certainly higher than that.

        There is almost universal agreement among scientists and physicians that the environmental toxins and chemicals to which we are increasingly exposed are interfering with the immune system’s ability to distinguish self from non-self.”

        1 out of 100 teenagers in the USA only is getting Dysautonomia. Why in the world young human bodies started having problems with such a fundamental and rudimental to existence ability as standing?

        Something to think about when giving green light to GM mosquito experiment. Or spraying tons of insecticides.

        Noone is looking for less harmful alternatives- bug lights, essential oils,portable mosquito traps,bug zappers,growing pest-repelling plants.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have an autoimmune disease, which I inherited from my Caymanian mother, who inherited hers from her Caymanian father, who inherited his from his Caymanian father. Who inherited his from one of his Caymanian parents. Many autoimmune diseases are highly genetic. You may not agree.

          What we can agree on is this: The Oxitec mosquito did not cause my autoimmune disease. It did not cause my mother’s disease. It did not cause my grandfather’s, or my great-grandfather’s, or the disease of anyone else before them. My disease has been found in the bones of a Pharoah, who died long before the Oxitec mosquito was formed.

          So stop your nonsense about autoimmune diseases. They have nothing to do with the Oxitec mosquito. Unless it’s been genetically modified to go back in time to infect me and my ancestors? Is it really the back to the future mosquito?

          Wait – can we really accuse the time traveling mosquito of everything? Then let’s blame it for causing the Hindenburg crash. No – wait! It sunk the Titanic! No, I know – it killed all the Dinosaurs! In Jurassic Park!

          This is fun. Let’s do it again sometime.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t understand. What is the supposed link between auto immune diseases and mosquitos?

        • Anonymous says:

          “growing pest-repelling plants” that will be the result of the biotechnology you resist so mightily.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sales pitch for a book:

          Reading The Autoimmune Epidemic is a necessary first step. Reading The Autoimmune Epidemic is a life-altering event. It needs to be.


    • MM says:

      “Infertility” is the INABILITY to reproduce… NOT being “unable to live long enough to reproduce”, a lot of men die before having children, does that mean they were sterile?

  8. pproved? says:

    Truly ignorant.

  9. Unison says:

    CAYMAN HAS OPEN THE DOOR OF FUTURE EXPERIMENTATIONS ON HER OWN PEOPLE … and will the door shut after the pay-offs have been made?! I think not!

    I am very dissappointed in the Judiciary, the MLAs, and the people of these islands.

    Its too late now … but this has set a bad precedent, and other experiments are sure to be easily conducted here on our women and children!


    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree with the writer of this article!

    • Anonymous says:

      This isn’t a human experiment. They are releasing GMO mosquitos that should help cut down on mosquitos by tricking them in breeding with the GMO mosquitos that aren’t able to reproduce.
      This isn’t at all an experiment on people. I think you need to take a step back and realise how crazy you sound Unison. If you want to start conspiracy theories then fine… just don’t stand in the way of progress especially when it means improving the health standards of our island by minimizing mosquito contraced diseases.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we all adopted that same mentality we wouldn’t have vaccinations that protect you from illnessess that we’re once deemed a death sentence once you caught it. Get with the times.. this is the 21st century.

  10. No Regrets says:

    Had me a big old bag of Cheetos today, bring it on!

  11. Anonymous says:

    My Caymanian people. I am lost for words. You are fools of your own democracy. You let money overpower your country’s egotistical way of living. You let strangers into your country to experiment on something they are unsure of. Instead, you should had took a stand to “STOP” this crises. Instead each district should had come together to help the westbayers protest against this project of unknown circumstances. You all should had march all the way to the governors house and demand this triolocity to be stopped!!! Obviously, It is too late now…may God bless the Cayman Islands and may he help you all when the dangers is exposed to you and your children!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Smooth words doesn’t make your argument clinical or scientific. You have taken assumptions and posted them in very convincing fashion for the poorly educated to be swayed. You need to provide opposing scientific evidence not weak assumptions to make any justification to not go forward.

    I’m guessing you are a preacher / pastor or elder in you church and have learned how to tickle the ears of your the weak minded. Your words are smooth and convincing but your facts and evidence are circumstantial at best.

    • MM says:

      The only one using smooth wording to sway the public is Oxitec. The tripling of dengue numbers in Brazil speak for themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      5:42 pm
      Who are you talking to?

      • Anonymous says:

        Its obvious this comment at 5:42 was to the author of the viewpoint. If you cant understand that then how can you understand content discussed? If you cant think for yourself and don’t have the capacity to understand more complex topics then you need to find a likeable smooth talker who you can follow blindly.

  13. Anonymous says:

    You lost me when you referred to Brazil’s government as sensible: ‘…And what better location than one that lacks the legislation or sensible heads of government to pose the right, pressing questions…’. You clearly have not been following decisions by Brazil’s govt for the past decade.

    • MM says:

      No, you lost yourself dear – nowhere in that article said anything about Brazil’s government being sensible.

  14. Anonymous says:

    You may have to click translate if you don’t speak Portuguese.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Can someone say exactly what is the fear. It seems to me it either works or it doesnt.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s the problem, it’s a new technology so no one knows what may happen. That’s why the poster says we need more studies done first. If you were to discover a new material made from a strange meteorite and decided to make pendants with it before testing it, wouldn’t you say that is potentially dangerous?

      • Anonymous says:

        3:59 you lost me. How does releasing mosquitoes that die in 3 days compare to making pendants from a meteorite

        • MM says:

          They are not guaranteed to die, they are not guaranteed to produce offspring that do not reproduce, they are not guaranteed to not also carry disease and they are not guaranteed to work – a summary of Oxitec’s own claims as recent as today’s release article

    • Anonymous says:

      Doesn’t work for Brazil.

  16. Anonymous says:

    So what can we do about it? Bayers are the next guinea pigs.

    • GT Massive says:

      The rest of Cayman has been suffering for years as a result of the failed experiment which first introduced West Bayers in to our society.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The questions so clearly posed and points so simply explored are the same points the petitioners make, but it sounds very different coming from you.

    Perhaps you should have written this a long time ago?

    Thanks you for submitting your viewpoint.

  18. Anonymous says:

    You state you are unconvinced by the three previous trials for a number of reasons but then fail to list the reasons. You first mention the 2009 Grand Cayman trial but it is unclear what point you are trying to make; could you please clarify the point you are making here?

    The next point you make is the 2010 Malaysian trial and state that it was the wrong location and duration. Do you know the purpose of the trial; given only 6000 mosquitoes were released it was obviously not a trial to reduce the natural Aedes aegypti population?

    Finally it is your comments on the Brazil release in 2014 that I find most confusing as it appears to be questioning when where and how Zika causes microcephaly rather than telling us why you are unconvinced by the results of the Oxitec mosquito release. The answer to the one question you do ask about why dengue and Zika are ravaging Brasil should be obvious; to date releases of GM mosquitoes have been very small scale and not designed to provide country wide protection.

    • MM says:

      When I wrote this post I did not expect I would have to spoon-feed all details to the reading public; the points are obviously extremely summarized.

      We intend to release 22 million mozzies in Cayman based on information from these particular trials, however, these trials should not be applied to a release in the Cayman Islands because the conditions the trials were held under differ by numbers, location and conditions. Malasia – lack of human exposure and minimal numbers; Grand Cayman – much smaller numbers than now proposed in a far less dense population and the fact that the most similar release was that of Brazil who are still in an epidemic.

      The urgency of release is being greatly expressed, however, the decision-makers admit this is an ongoing process. The number of Dengue cases in Brazil has almost quadrupled in 2015 yet Oxitec pitched their marvelous technology promising to combat this disease.

      • Pat says:

        Given the sheer size of Brazil Im curious as to why you think one small trial equivalent to nothing more than a pin prick would have far reaching results?

      • Anonymous says:

        Could you please unsummarize your points and expand on what you are trying to say? Whilst the trial in Cayman may be based on the information obtained in other trials there is no reason that it should be an exact repeat of any of the trials. With regard to the point you made about the small scale trials in Brasil not having any effect on Zika transmission I would like to point out the following. Brasil is a large country with a population of over 200 million people covering an area of over 3 million square miles. The Oxitec releases have been very small and designed to prove that the technique can work. Results showed over 90% reduction in both cases of dengue and Aedes aegypti. At this point I would like to point out that this applied only to the area the mosquitoes were released in and not to the whole of Brazil. This is why brasil is experiencing continued zika transmission; it is simply due to the fact that the vast majority of Brasil has not had the mosquito released.

        • MM says:

          200 million people multiplied by $10 per person (according to Oxitec this is the estimated cost to run the programme and protect the population)

          You do the math because arguing with fools has exhausted me.

          • Anonymous says:

            I did the math; 200,000,000 multiplied by 10 is 2,000,000,000. Hope this helps but not sure how it answers the questions that were put to you. May I ask your background as to why you obviously feel you are an expert on this topic?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ethical and Intelligent article. Thank you.

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