Activists Delay GM Mosquito Release in Cayman

UPDATE (7/14/2016): Activists delay planned release of GM mosquitoes via Cayman News Service: 

A group of local activists in West Bay who are opposed to the planned release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the district have managed to delay the start of the project which was due to get underway Thursday. The group aimed to highlight concerns about the failure to properly consult the public and the questions raised by the research into GM mosquitoes. Dwene Ebanks, one of the leaders of the campaign, has confirmed that their application for a judicial review led to the courts putting a temporary stop on today’s release until the legal challenge can be heard next week.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit has been working in partnership with the British-based bio-technology company, Oxitec, which created the genetically modified Aedes aegypti that are promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to expensive and increasingly ineffective insecticides.

Read the full article here.

Previously, The Cayman Compass reported that opposition to the planned release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands is mounting legal action in an effort to halt the release which is scheduled to begin today.

The Cayman Compass reports:

On Wednesday, an application for judicial review and an application for a stay of the release of the mosquitoes were filed by HSM attorneys on behalf of Dwene Ebanks, who spearheads an opposition movement called Caymanians United Against GM Mosquitoes.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit, in collaboration with biotechnology company Oxitec, plans to begin releasing GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes as a preventive measure to control the mosquito responsible for the transmission of viruses such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

The release is scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon in West Bay. If a judge grants the stay, that release would be delayed pending the judicial review. The applications had not been heard by a judge as of press time Wednesday.

The Center For Food Safety commented on the potential hazards of a widespread GE mosquito release in April, stating that independent scientists have critiqued the GE mosquito as a potentially ineffective and risky attempt to address dengue:

There are flaws in Oxitec’s experimental logic; for example, there have been no dengue fever cases in the Florida Keys since 2009 and the Center for Disease Control notes that there is not data from any of Oxitec’s other trials that show a reduction in diseases. Even a great reduction in these mosquitoes still leaves enough mosquitoes in peoples’ homes and backyards to spread disease.

A Change.org petition to suspend Oxitec’s GMO mosquito project in the Cayman Islands is currently collecting signatures. Sign the petition here.

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