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GM mosquito release halted

Judge grants late night injunction

Today’s planned release of Genetically Modified mosquitoes in West Bay has been halted by the interim injunction granted last evening (Wednesday 13 July) in the Grand Court.

In this photo L-R: Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec, and MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie, look over a batch of mosquito larvae being reared for release in West Bay. Photo: Catherine MacGillivray, GIS
In this photo L-R: Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec, and MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie, look over a batch of mosquito larvae being reared for release in West Bay. Photo: Catherine MacGillivray, GIS

HSM attorneys, acting on behalf of Dwene Ebank, applied for judicial review and an application for a stay of the release of the mosquitoes on Wednesday and were successful in their bid to have the programme halted temporarily.

Councillor for Health Roy McTaggart, in a brief interview with The Cayman Reporter this morning confirmed that stay of execution and injunction was granted last night.

However, he said, “The judge acknowledged the urgency of the matter and has called for a full hearing of the matter on Tuesday (19 July).”

Mr Ebanks, who has opposed the programme since it was first announced by Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin in May, started a petition which garnered 672 supporters at last count this morning.

The petition calls for the immediate postponement of the release of any “Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in our communities until all of our questions and concerns are answered publicly, which will allow us to be fully educated and assuaged of all fears related to this project. The release is scheduled to begin in the district of West Bay in June, 2016.”

The release of the Genetically Modified Mosquitoes project which is in being conducted by Oxitec, in collaboration with the MRCU (Mosquito Research & Control Unit), is aimed at combating the spread of the Zika virus and controlling its vector the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Cayman has already recorded two confirmed cases of Zika which were imported by returning residents both of whom contracted the virus while abroad. At least six blood samples have been sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for Zika testing. Those results are still pending. The virus has also been sexually transmitted and has been linked to Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

The GM mosquitoes, which is a proactive measure intended to get ahead of any potential outbreak in the Cayman Islands, is a collaboration between the MRCU and biotechnology company Oxitec. They are releasing the mosquitoes as a preventative measure to control the mosquito responsible for the transmission of Zika and other viruses.

The technique uses genetically engineered, non-biting sterile males to mate with local female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which then have offspring that die before reaching adulthood.

About Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath is a Trinidadian journalist with over 15 years experience. She was previously employed as a Senior Reporter with the Sunday Guardian, after having spent a number of years at the Trinidad Guardian, San Fernando Bureau. She has worked as Head of News at Heritage Radio 101.7FM in Trinidad and was a part-time journalism and communication lecturer with the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTATT.) She holds an Associate Degree in Journalism and Public Relations and a Bachelor in Mass Communications from COSTAATT.

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