|04 December 2018
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Cayman Islands Abandons Failed GM Mosquito Project
The Environmental Health Minister of the Cayman Islands,who has responsibility for the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU), has said the release of Oxitec’s genetically modified (GM) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Caymans has not worked and has confirmed that the Oxitec contract will formally end on 31 December (Item 1). The Minister said that the project was not effective and it was only because of the arrival of a new director at MRCU that the ministry learned that it was not working. Other legislators applauded the decision to terminate the programme (Item 2). The government has invested $588,000 in the project and there are no plans for any further investment in the technology.
MRCU’s original partnerships with Oxitec began in 2010, when the company conducted an experimental release. This caused considerable controversy because, although it was not done secretly, the government failed to publicise the pilot widely and attempted to play down the experimental nature of the GM technology. The firm’s return to Cayman in 2016 to launch a full-scale release in West Bay caused considerable public concern and legal action was taken by local people. Although this failed to stop the release, it did cause a delay. The project also faced a number of glitches including issues regarding import licences and allegations that the number of GM female mosquitoes, which can bite and hence potentially transmit disease, was far higher than expected (Item 3).
Oxitec breeds male mosquitoes with a genetic modification that causes their offspring to die before reaching adulthood. The technique involves releasing millions of them into the wild so that, through weight of numbers, they will out-compete resident males for mates and purportedly lead to population collapse.
With best wishes,