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POLICY & REGULATION: The 2009 announcement of a GE mosquito trial on Cayman Islands



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   MRCU LOOKS TO MODIFY MOZZIES

SOURCE:  CayCompass, Cayman Islands

AUTHOR:  Stuart Wilson

URL:     http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2009/10/01/MRCU-looks-to-modify-mozzies/

DATE:    02.10.2009

SUMMARY: "The Mosquito Research and Control Unit is considering using genetically-modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes to prevent dengue fever in the Cayman Islands. Director of MRCU Bill Petrie said a final decision had not been made on the project, but it is essentially a new spin on an old technique, where males alone are released. [...] 'We already have genetically-modified livestock and crops in the Cayman Islands and whereas we consume these products, this will not be the case with the mosquitoes and as such, it is quite a different situation,' said the director."

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MRCU LOOKS TO MODIFY MOZZIES

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit is considering using genetically-modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes to prevent dengue fever in the Cayman Islands.

Director of MRCU Bill Petrie said a final decision had not been made on the project, but it is essentially a new spin on an old technique, where males alone are released.

He said the difference here is that the male mosquitoes are made sterile by genetically modifying them so that they cannot successfully breed with a female.

'We already have genetically-modified livestock and crops in the Cayman Islands and whereas we consume these products, this will not be the case with the mosquitoes and as such, it is quite a different situation,' said the director.

Mr. Petrie said the male Aedes Aegypti mosquito cannot bite and lives a very short lifespan, adding that since their eggs will not survive using this new method of control, it is thought that the population of the species would decrease, as would the probability of dengue fever transmission.

'This will be great if we can get it to work, but we are still in discussions and a pilot study to determine the feasibility of the project would have to be done first.'

Mr. Petrie cautioned however, that any decision would be subject to budget concerns, logistics and priorities.

He said a permit would also have to be obtained from the Department of Agriculture before the treated mosquitoes are released and admitted he did not know how much the undertaking would cost at this point in time.

'There is no risk that I can see in this exercise,' said Mr. Petrie, who elaborated: 'This is actually a technique that is 30 to 40 years old, only now we are using the science of genetics as opposed to radiation and/or chemicals.'

The director also remarked that several other countries were looking at this approach for controlling the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and predicted that it could become a conventional method for keeping their numbers down in the future.

It was pointed out by the director that the introduction of genetically-modified mosquitoes would not detrimentally affect the environment as the species are already found in the Cayman Islands.

Currently the MRCU is also studying the DNA of different types of mosquitoes to observe their resistance to pesticides in an effort to determine what products are most effective.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GENETIC MODIFICATION OF  MOSQUITOES CAUSES STIR

SOURCE:  CayCompass, Cayman Islands

AUTHOR:  Stuart Wilson

URL:     http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2010/11/22/Genetic-modification-of--mosquitoes-causes-stir/

DATE:    22.11.2010

SUMMARY: "The Mosquito Research and Control Unit of the Cayman Islands has been scrutinised in the foreign press in relation to a programme that genetically modifies Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes to combat the spread of dengue fever. The undertaking was not highly publicized, though the Caymanian Compass published an article on 2 October, 2009, during the run up to the campaign explaining the issue."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GENETIC MODIFICATION OF  MOSQUITOES CAUSES STIR

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit of the Cayman Islands has been scrutinised in the foreign press in relation to a programme that genetically modifies Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes to combat the spread of dengue fever.

The undertaking was not highly publicized, though the Caymanian Compass published an article on 2 October, 2009, during the run up to the campaign explaining the issue.

At the time, Bill Petrie, director of MRCU, explained that the initiative was essentially a new spin on an old technique in which males that were made sterile were released. He added that the difference here is that the male mosquitoes? genes were altered, as opposed to their sterility being chemically induced by radiation.

Some opponents argue that getting rid of mosquitoes could affect the food chain and throw the ecosystem off balance.

Pete Riley, the campaign director of GM Freeze, a British nonprofit organisation that opposes genetic modification, said, ?Humans have had a disastrous record of introducing anything into the environment. This can be classed as interference and the exercise may cause additional problems worse than the one that is trying to be dealt with.?

Mr. Riley added that there are many possible outcomes to such an endeavour, all of which are unpredictable, and that predators that feed on the adult mosquitoes, larvae and eggs would be affected.

Mr. Petrie rejected the notion that this new approach might be detrimental to other animals who share the ecosystem with mosquitoes and may feed on their larvae and eggs. He lauded the experiment as a success.

?The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is the only mosquito that carries dengue fever in the Cayman islands of the 35 species that live here, is actually an invasive species. It has come along many times and each time we have gotten rid of it. However, after Hurricane Ivan their numbers exploded. That mosquito does not belong here, so there is no moral or ethical dilemma in getting rid of it.?

Mr. Petrie explained that as humans, we have tried to rid ourselves of the bacteria that causes cholera, and many other bacteria, all of which affect the ecosystem, but it is a question of balancing what is best for us.

?No one is upset about getting rid of roaches or rats,? said Mr. Petrie. He added that a major benefit and a source of confidence for conducting the programme in the Cayman Islands is that the Islands are isolated in the Caribbean and as a result, the experiment would not affect any other countries.

This particular method, though on a small scale, had never been done in the world, he said, and this is one of the reasons it has garnered so much international attention. He said the term ?genetically modified? is probably another reason people are talking about it around the globe.

?The real news is that MRCU along with Oxitec of Oxford University ran the trial for six months and it was successful by all accounts. We chose a small isolated area in East End. This was done in three blocks; one block was where the method was introduced, while nothing was done in another block and the third block was used to monitor the natural population of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

?Once the team perfected the technique, monitoring was done by traps. The final statistical analysis has shown a significant reduction in the population of this potential dengue carrier,? said the MRCU director.

The next step is to increase operational field trials to see if the technique can work under normal circumstances and incorporate it into the MRCU?s normal programme and go after the worst affected areas of the Island, such as George Town and West Bay, explained Mr. Petrie.

He said he does not know how the measure would work in other places.

?I don?t know how this will work for Brazil, Honduras or any other country. I am responsible for the Cayman Islands, and what I can say is that the method seems to be working for us. With dengue on the rise and some 100 million cases reported each year around the world, in my opinion this campaign will greatly reduce the risk of a dengue outbreak for us in the Cayman Islands.?