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Home / Local News / Florida Keys activist warns Cayman residents against GM mosquitoes

Florida Keys activist warns Cayman residents against GM mosquitoes

Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) Director Dr Bill Petrie, together with Oxetic officials, formally released the first batch of genetically mosquitoes outside the West Bay Health Clinic on Thursday 28 July.
Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) Director Dr Bill Petrie, together with Oxetic officials, formally released the first batch of genetically mosquitoes outside the West Bay Health Clinic on Thursday 28 July.

Mila de Mier, founder of Never Again, a Florida based advocacy group of local residents opposed to the release of genetically modified mosquitoes, has said she wants the results of last week’s Key Haven referendum to highlight the risks associated with genetically modified mosquitos and to serve as a warning to Cayman Islands residents.

“Residents of Key Haven have taken the time to learn the real risks of GM mosquitoes, including the rise of competitive species, the health dangers, and the potential for irreversible damage to the ecosystem. As a result, they have chosen not to participate in this trial. Residents of Cayman need to ask more questions. When we investigated Oxitec, the company releasing these lab insects, we were shocked at its track record of field trials in other places, its poor evaluation of the risks of this technology, and its consistent misinformation give to the public and policy makers,” Ms de Mier said.

“Twenty-two million genetically modified mosquitoes are being released in the Cayman Islands without the consent of residents. We do not know the potential unanticipated consequences – on humans or our environment – of releasing lab insects into the wild.

“Using genetically modified mosquito technology is not only a huge risk, it’s totally  unnecessary.Cost-effective, safe and approved alternatives already exist,” she said. “For example, the non-GM Wolbachia mosquito being used successfully to fight dengue in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Vietnam is one such alternative.”

“Has Cayman considered this natural alternative?”

Dr Stephen Dobson, CEO and Founder of MosquitoMate, a biotech company using Wolbachia technology said the Wolbachia method used no chemicals, no toxins and no genetic modification.

“Our method controls mosquito populations using naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria,” he said. “Wolbachia is a type of bacteria which occurs naturally in over half of all insects. Our mosquitoes are classified as a ‘biopesticide’ – a pesticide derived from natural materials. While common in insects, it is not infectious and cannot be transmitted to people, pets or any warm-blooded animals.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has approved MosquitoMate field trials in four US states, including California, Kentucky, New York and Florida.

Dr Stephen Dobson said he would be available to answer questions regarding a collaborative trial of MosquitoMate mosquitoes in Grand Cayman.

Ms Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth US said assessments and testing of genetically modified mosquitoes had been woefully inadequate.

“How will genetically modified mosquitoes thrive in the wild and what will the inevitable unintended consequences be? These questions have not been responsibly answered,” she said. “We should be using the least toxic alternatives that don’t have unintended consequences for our environment and health.”

Ms de Mier said the defeat of the genetically modified mosquito field trials in Key Haven demonstrated that with proper education people reject being the subject of an experiment.

 

“I implore the people of the Cayman Islands to check the facts, do their research and to look at safer, natural, and approved alternatives.”

 

 

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2 comments

  1. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is dangerous enough that any reasonable control measure should be tested. The Oxitec mosquito is a relatively straight-forward tool where two genes have been added to the 15,000 or so existing genes of A aegypti.

    While it is technically true that Wolbachia is “natural” – the strains introduced into A aegypti, which normally doesn’t carry Wolbachia were introduced artificially by for-profit companies like MosquitoMate as well as non-profits like Eliminate Dengue. As an introduced species, Wolbachia is as natural as cane toads in Australia or rats on the Galapagos.

    For another perspective on Wolbachia Google “Wolbachia-Infected Mosquitoes Might Reduce Dengue, Enhance Zika, and Cause a Million Souls to Become Sterile”

    I’m a retired molecular biologist who has been following the GM mosquito story for several months and am not attempting to ‘play favorites’ – just advise that any technology carries risks (but still believe both the GM and Wolbachia mosquitoes should be tested). Ms. de Meir is a realtor and has not shown any evidence of scientific understanding. Perhaps she even has a financial stake in MosquitoMate?

  2. Seriously Mila? You are taking your failed campaign to “protect” the Keys to another country’s mosquito control system? You advocate the Wolbachia method which has far more dangerous consequences w/o a shred of scientific fact. The fact is the Oxitec mosquito reduces the population of Aedes Aegypti by over 90% with no sign of the side effects your fear mongering is trying to promote. Please stay in your own little corner of the world & let the Cayman’s keep their tourism industry intact.