Don’t stop using bug spray
That’s the advice from Giselle Johnson, production and field assistant at Oxitex who said even though genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes have now been released the public must continue using personal mosquito protection methods to stave off the disease carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Ms Johnson, one of the Caymanian trainees in the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU)/ Oxitec project, made the comment as she spoke with The Cayman Reporter on Thursday following the first release of GM mosquitoes in West Bay.
She said while the scientific method will begin to yield results members of the public should not stop protecting themselves or their homes from mosquitoes.
“We are only doing this (release) in a small area. We have the whole of the Cayman Islands. We have other mosquitoes; we have 23 other species. We have the swamp mosquitoes that our mosquitoes are not targeting so I would not discourage anyone. Do not stop spraying we still have other species to tackle. Do not stop buying the bug spray,” she said.
On Thursday (28 July) the MRCU/Oxitec released some 20,000 GM mosquitoes outside the West Bay Health Clinic. It was the first release of the laboratory reared mosquitoes aimed at helping suppress the Aedes aegypti population.
The release was delayed by court action taken by anti-GM mosquito campaigners Dwene Ebanks and his group Caymanians United to Suspend GM Mosquito Project who had filed for judicial review of the decision by the National Conservation Council and the Department of Environment to grant permits allowing the project to be conducted here.
However Justice Ingrid Mangatal dismissed the application to stop the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in West Bay as she ruled it was “without grounds.”
Ms Johnson, who worked on rearing the mosquitoes, said she was “relieved that we finally get to see out job, our hard work being put out to help the community of West Bay. I am just really happy that we can resume this project.”
The 23-year-old Caymanian said she also resides in the treatment zone for the project said she was pleased to be a part of the programme and for her country to partner in the innovative project.
“I feel good about this company coming here. I would rather see my Caymanians Zika free, Dengue free and Chikungunya free, just disease free really. I am happy they are here,” Ms Johnson said.
The Oxitec production and field assistant said her family was disappointed that the matter went to court because “they actually want to see the mosquitoes released.”
“I feel like most of the public opinion are with [us] and agree with this programme. We just have a few who probably do not understand it or are being fed misleading information. Most of the community are with us,” she said.
Ms Johnson said she had nothing to say to the detractors of the project as “in the few weeks, in the coming months and the results speak for themselves.”
She said the batch of 20,000 GM mosquitoes released on Thursday took about eight days to rear and the team has started to rear more that same day.
“Next week we will do a release and we will be rearing more often so we can release a few more times a week, hopefully two to three times a week,” she said.
Ms Johnson, speaking about her involvement in the project, said her relatives feel that it is a very interesting field to work in.
“They are always interested to find out what is going on. How does it work? How do you do this? They are interested in it. They think it is cool actually,” she said.
She said when the project is over she will take with her the experience she gained and “hopefully go back to school, finish my degree in science and pursue another science job.”
Ms Johnson advised fellow young Caymanians to pursue science as a career and continue to reach for their dreams.
Her message is, “Keep pushing and pursing their dreams it does not matter if there is a lot of work out there or not. Somebody needs to do the job. We have a good amount of companies here that do a lot of science work. I would never discourage anyone to stop pursuing their dreams.”