Oxitec packs up but evaluation not complete

| 05/02/2019 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service, Genetically modified mosquito

Genetically modified mosquitoes are placed in a freezer by Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec

(CNS): The controversial research project which saw genetically modified sterile male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes released into an area of West Bay in a collaboration between the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) and the bio-technology company Oxitec has come to a formal end. However, details of what happened, what went right or wrong, why the government went from being wholehardheartedly committed to it, even fighting a legal challenge from concerned residents in order to release the GM insects, to closing the project down has still not been fully explained. 

However, the fieldwork stopped just before Christmas, and having spent one more month collating the data, Oxitec has now packed up and left the island. A joint steering committee continues to work on the final evaluation, according to a press release announcing the end of Oxitec’s work in the Cayman Islands.

MRCU Director Jim McNelly said the working relationship between the two parties remains positive and both parties benefitted from the partnership. But he did not offer any details about the overall impact of the project, which saw many millions of male mosquitoes released into the wild to suppress the invasive species and find a way to effectively limit the impact of an increasingly dangerous vector for a host of diseases, from chikungunya to the Zika virus.

Officials stated that the project evaluation is still underway, which will assess various data types and lessons for the purposes of informing future interventions involving combined methodology.

“The steering committee is committed to sharing with the public its findings from the project, which are expected in the second quarter of 2019,” the MRCU stated in the release.

The CEO of the bio-tech firm, Grey Frandsen, said the objective of the project was to improve understanding of how to enhance future control efforts using Oxitec’s mosquitoes and MRCU’s traditional control methods.

No work is planned for 2019, but Frandsen said in the government release that the MRCU and Oxitec will continue to discuss potential control programmes in the future and will maintain their relationship. MRCU will also continue to include Oxitec’s mosquito technology among a list of potential tools that it may deploy in the future to combat Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the officials said.

The project has had a mixed response. CNS has spoken to residents in both the areas where the mosquitoes were released and those in the surrounding areas. Those in the center of the area where the sterile male mosquitoes were released and where the numbers were suppressed during the study have already notice a massive increase in the pest in the few years since. Those in the surrounding areas had already suffered an elevation in Aedes aegypti during the pilot.

There were a number of concerns about the potential side effects on the environment and on people, in particular the fact that, although the insects released were supposed to be almost all male, they actually included a higher than expected number of genetically modified female mosquitoes, which can still bite.

Government has sent mixed messages about the project and has failed to explain its position on developments over the last few years.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So the only thing they eradicated was the MRCU Director??

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Obviously God was negligent at the design and implementation phases of this complex project.
    Not possible, there is no God, and we are products of randomness.
    Then why do we go to structured schools to impose our technical rigidity upon an apparently random process?
    We will fix the bugs in the genetic code (no pun intended).
    We will create immortality. We will become the most High.
    Haven’t we heard that somewhere before?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Still defending oxitec lol

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I am interested to know how the “residents” of these areas have noticed an increase of the Aedes aegypti? Increase in mosquitos yes, but a specific type???

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because “Aedes Aegypti”dubbed the Yellow Fever Mosquito (Not cool) bite day and night unlike other mosquitos. The GM mosquito has a fluorescent color under a certain light. In Boltins Avenue where they released them, I seen a decrease in them. Now that they stopped releasing they are back. The people that seen the difference can tell you. Honestly I have learned more about mosquitos than I have in school since this project came about. Did you know there is 36 reported types of mosquito? Did you know alot of them bite and some carry diseases (Aedes Aegypti). People need to realise Oxitec was just trying to help. Like I said before, would you rather mosquito spray and pellets on your head and produce or just a genetically modified mosquito. Humans naturally reject anything new, so keeping that stupid noisy ass cancer creating plane flying over your house actually makes sense.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    “although the insects released were supposed to be almost all male, they actually included a higher than expected number of genetically modified female mosquitoes” – CNS, having gone back through the linked articles none of them report (explain) the above claim. What is it based on?

    CNS: The relevant article is here and the source documents are in the CNS Library here.

    • Anonymous says:

      They separated them a few at a time so there was no females released.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you CNS. From the CNS Library “This indicates that the sex sorting is performed to the expected standard and ensuring no more than 2 females are released per 1,000 males.” So not sure that claiming/implying that “a higher than expected number of genetically modified female mosquitoes” were released is completely accurate.

      (I assume the claim was based on the one reported field sample where a higher than expected number of Oxitec females was found. However that event is not evidence of “a higher than expected number of genetically modified female mosquitoes” being released. All it shows was a higher than expected number ending up in one trap for some reason which may, or may not, be that a higher than expected number were released. If higher numbers were really being released regularly they would have shown up int eh reports a lot more and GeneWatch or whoever was making up these claims would have been screaming a lot louder because they would have had actual proof of what they were claiming.)

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Wish they would stay

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Everyone now is the time to make sure you haven’t grown any extra digits

    *as this is the internet I am legally required to indicate I am being sarcastic, specifically I am mocking persons who have no idea about how genetic modification works but who scaremonger nonetheless*

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  8. Anonymous says:

    the usual civil service cock-up…..

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  9. Anonymous says:

    of course…governments never say or do anything wrong!!! ???

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    • Anonymous says:

      Of course.. people with zero knowledge of genetics scream and sue because of “an inevitable ecological collapse due to mutations” – that’s literally the case put forward by Dw*** and Katal*** that took the case to court. Do they even have an associate’s degree in science?

      Can a mosquito and man have offspring?

      Can a mosquito and parrot, fly, bird have offspring?

      Genetically sterilizing mosquitoes and thinking the alterations could pass on to humans is as dumb as answering yes to the above.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    “1st world” moonlighting cowboys – desperate for a paycheck and hiding behind a cloak of humanitarianism.

    The non-travelled, naive, and colonial-minded clowns at the head of CIG are perfect targets.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well at least we have the “non-travelled, naive, and colonial-minded clowns at the head of CIG”, rather than the “globe trotting, 5 star all the way on the public’s dime, clowns at the head of CIG” for a change. Must be progress of some sort.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Gypsies are well travelled. Put them in charge.

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