GM mosquito survey claims broad support

| 15/08/2016 | 10 Comments
Cayman News Service

Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes

(CNS): The results of an island-wide public opinion survey conducted on behalf of UK-based bio-tech firm, Oxitec, last month found that 69% of people who knew about the project to release genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were in favour. Almost three weeks after Oxitec scientists and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit began the controversial release of tens of thousands of the GM insects in West Bay in the first phase of an attempt to eradicate the invasive mosquito, officials said residents surveyed in that district were even more supportive.

The survey results come in the wake of considerable public opposition, which included a petition with hundreds of signatures of people not in support, and after legal action filed in the Grand Court to try to overturn the National Conservation Council’s decision to grant the project a permit. The survey also shows that almost one fifth of the people on Grand Cayman had no idea about the project, despite the requirement in the permit to release the bugs to engage in extensive public consultation.

Despite very real concerns in some quarters of the community, officials claim that the survey of around 800 people, which was said to have been undertaken by “independent qualified professionals”, reveals broad support for the pilot project.

“The objective of this research was to increase understanding of community knowledge, attitudes, and opinions regarding mosquito control and GE mosquitoes,” said Oxitec Project Manager Dr Renaud Lacroix. “The polling was contracted to independent qualified professionals who arranged for face to face interviews throughout the island.”

The Oxitec scientist, who is based in Cayman for the pilot project, said, “The survey has revealed overwhelming support for the programme, and the communication campaign will be continued during the project to keep residents informed.”

Poll results also show 74% of residents are worried or very worried about Zika, dengue and chikungunya and 89% agreed it was important or very important to test new tools against the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

While concerns remain about the release of the bio-engineered bugs, as many believe there are still several unanswered questions about the long-term implications for the environment, MRCU Director Dr William Petrie explained why the unit had turned to this controversial technology.

“The MRCU uses the best tools available in the fight against Aedes aegypti. The deployment of the most advanced techniques available, including Oxitec’s Friendly Aedes aegypti, is firmly in the public health interest, as the traditionally used tools have proven to have limitations in effectiveness,” he said.

Cayman has now had two confirmed local transmissions of the Zika virus in George Town, which Petrie said further justified the need to press on with the elimination programme.

“The subsequent wider expansion of this project throughout Grand Cayman is expected to benefit all residents and visitors. The appearance of Zika virus in Grand Cayman adds to the need to implement this programme without delay.”

Opinion Survey Summary of GM mosquitoes, Grand Cayman 2016

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Category: Environmental Health, Health, Medical Health

Comments (10)

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  1. Douglas W Hylton says:

    Public health policy should be designed by our best scientists not derived from a 1931 Mary Shelley science fiction story or from a Steven Spielberg movie script.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Since the virus has spread throughout Brazil, but extremely high rates of microcephaly have not, officials are now being forced to admit that something else is likely at play. Dr. Fatima Marinho, director of information and health analysis at Brazil’s ministry of health, told the journal Nature, “We suspect that something more than Zika virus is causing the high intensity and severity of cases.

  3. ABC says:

    This survey is a joke.

    Who in Cayman is worried about ‘the importance of using new tools to fight the dengue mosquito’? Apparently this is one of the 4 questions they asked (see attached report of survey results) which apparently 89% of people said it was important or very important.

    Now I would believe that result if you are discussing it in terms of Zika (admittedly the same mossie). However we do not and never have had an issue with Dengue.

    These Oxitec people need to do their home work about the new testing grounds more carefully instead of rolling out the same generic script they used in the previous labs.

    They call this the friendly aedes aegypti project!? How stupid do they think people are.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There were 2 Ebola cases contracted in the US, 7 Cases evacuated to U.S. from other countries . Around 1 billion spent. But the real pandemic was Ebola hysteria.
    2 cases of Zika in the Cayman Islands of undeterminable origin (sexual?) which is less harmful than flu, unless one is a pregnant woman. Besides Zika-Microcephaly Connection is still controversial.
    If one suffers from Zika or any other types of phobia, I suggest getting professional mental help. It will cause you more harm than Zika.
    I suggest you fear your fear. Fear is one of the most destructive emotion, it kills, literally.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a growing list of health consquences being linked to this barely-studied strain of Zika virus. If you’ve convinced yourself that the risks are fully known, benign, or that neurological impacts are constrained to fetus complications, you simply aren’t up to date to comment.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Cayman islands biggest challenge is the ignorance that is glorified by the culture.

  6. Harauguer says:

    Those two Zika cases should be thrown firmly at Dwene and Mckeeva’s feet. Thanks guys.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Concrete! That’s the answer to many problems. Concrete over everything. And no a cheap asphalt job either. I think we all remember what Ivan did to asphalt. Concrete is the answer.
    No more mozzies, iguanas, chickens, ants, bees, weeds, maiden plumb, frogs, sexy women from overseas stealing our men, bush fires……..
    Concrete! CONCRETE!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I don’t care what you do, MRCU, so long as your trained scientists with doctorates in entymology (unlike Dwene who has a “doctorate” in blah blah and inactivity) say it’s safe but for God’s sake do something about the crippling mosquitoes we have at present in Bodden Town too.

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