Cayman’s GM mosquitoes project takes centre stage
Overseas Territories leaders shifted focus to the dangers of the growing global Zika virus epidemic as they met on the final day of the pre-Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting in the Turks and Caicos Islands last Thursday (21 July).
Cayman’s Oxitec/Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) Genetically Modified mosquitoes programme came into the spotlight as leaders discussed the virus which has been ravaging the region and costing countries millions in tourist dollars.
Today (Monday 25 July) Justice Ingrid Mangatal is expected to rule on the legal challenge brought against the project by anti-Genetically Modified mosquitoes campaigner Dwene Ebanks and the Caymanians United to Suspend GM Mosquitoes Project group.
Mr Ebanks and his group secured a stay of execution preventing the 14 July release of the GM mosquitoes in West Bay effectively blocking Oxitec/MRCU from releasing just over 75,000 GM mosquitoes. Those mosquitoes have since been destroyed and the project is now in a state of abeyance pending the outcome of the judge’s decision today in the Grand Court.
On Thursday Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin, according to an Office of the Premier statement issued on Friday (22 July), advised fellow OT leaders meeting in TCI of the work Cayman is doing to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the diseases of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.
They were informed about the project which aims to eradicate the disease carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito “using sterile males bio-engineered to provide a friendly and cost-effective, efficient way to eliminate the invasive mosquito that transmits the diseases.”
The release stated that leaders had “tremendous interest” in the work Cayman is doing with Oxitec as well as “a real concern for the health risks posed by Zika and the potential for damage to tourism in the region that the virus poses.”
The pre-JMC meeting began on Wednesday (20 July). Leaders agreed at that meeting that Brexit was an “important area that needs urgent attention” and it will be placed on the agenda when the full Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meets later this year.
At that meeting Richard Wood, Head of the European Union Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, assured OT leaders that the UK will consult with them as Brexit talks continue and Britain moves forward with the process of extricating itself from the European Union.
Leaders also held discussions on the opportunities for cooperation with Public Health England and Global Health Exchange in relation to the Overseas Territories, the release stated.
The final day of the Pre-JMC meeting began with leaders and delegates flying from Providenciales to Grand Turk where the Pre-JMC meeting continued at the NJS Francis Building, which houses the TCI House of Assembly.
Premier McLaughlin and other OT leaders continued discussions on Britain’s exit from the European Union and the plans they will make ahead of the regular JMC meeting scheduled for 31 October – 4th November, 2016 in London.
Participants, the release said, also discussed concerns regarding British citizens living in the OTs who are entitled to pensions and are receiving lower benefits than citizens outside the OTs.
“Leaders agreed to jointly support this being resolved in the impacted Territories,” the release said.
The OT leaders also agreed to revisit the 2012 White Paper – Security, Success and Sustainability for the OTs, to further strengthen the relationship with the UK and to seek resolutions to various longstanding concerns.
The White Paper delves into the relationship between the UK and OTs; Her Majesty’s Government’s support and resources including funding for the environment, Darwin Plus; and preparations for the 2016 JMC.
The June 2012 128 page document acknowledges the “highly diverse” 14 OTs and restates the UK’s commitment to “defend the Territories and protect their peoples from external threats, ensuring their right of self-determination.”
The White Paper also restates that the “UK remains committed to providing
assistance to Territories in need and to supporting developments which will reduce aid dependency and it will encourage British businesses to pursue trade and investment opportunities in the Territories.”
Heads of Government were also invited by His Excellency the Governor Mr. Peter Beckingham to lunch at the Governor’s residence on Grand Turk.
Financial Services Minister Hon. Wayne Panton, Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose, Senior Political Advisor Roy Tatum and Sherpa Jason Webster also attended the pre-JMC meeting with Premier McLaughlin in TCI. They returned to the Cayman Islands on Friday evening.