Cayman’s GM mozzies may have reproduced

| 12/01/2012

mosquito_500px.jpg(CNS): The genetically modified mosquitoes released in the Cayman Islands over a year ago as part of a research study on the eradication of dengue fever by the UK-based company Oxitec could have reproduced and mixed in with the local population. According to a redacted document released to GeneWatch UK following a freedom of information request in Britain, the genetically modified pests, which the manufacturer described as sterile, did produce offspring around 15 percent of which survived. During the study the GM mozzies were fed cat food containing chicken contaminated with low levels of tetracycline, which allowed the mosquitoes to reproduce with their offspring surviving to adulthood.

The international charity, Friends of the Earth, has accused the company of trying tried to hide the evidence that its technology failed to prevent reproduction.

The release of the genetically modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, where there are no biosafety laws or regulations, caught the international scientific community and most residents by surprise. The release took place in East End.

The goal of Oxitec’s research was to prevent the progeny of GM mosquitoes from surviving in the wild, thereby reducing mosquito populations. However, the activist group said that failure to prevent reproduction in the presence of low levels of tetracycline is cause for concern, raising the spectre of genetically modified mosquitoes surviving and breeding, producing adult populations of GM mosquitoes, including GM females which can bite and transmit disease.

“The antibiotic tetracycline is widely used in agriculture and is present in sewage as well as in industrially farmed meat. Mosquitoes that carry dengue fever are known to breed in environments contaminated with sewage where they are likely to encounter widespread tetracycline contamination,” Friends of the Earth stated in a release relating to the revelations of the document from Oxitec.

The global green movement noted that GM females might cause unknown impacts on human health, such as allergies, and that the ecological implications of GM mosquitoes surviving and breeding are also unknown.

Even in the absence of tetracycline contamination, the GM mosquitoes are known to survive in the laboratory at rates of around 3 percent. In the field, this would translate into large numbers of survivors, given that continual releases of millions of GM mosquitoes would be needed to sustain the goals of population suppression.

“The fact that Oxitec is hiding data from the public has undermined its credibility,” said Eric Hoffman of Friends of the Earth US. “Oxitec’s assertions cannot be trusted. Trials of its mosquitoes must not move forward in the absence of comprehensive and impartial reviews of the environmental, human health and ethical risks. Such trials must also await the establishment of a clear and well-designed regulatory framework, which does not yet exist.”

Oxitec has released genetically modified mosquitoes in field experiments in Malaysia and Brazil as well as Cayman, where the first release took place, and the firm was planning a release in the Florida Keys in April this year.

Lucia Ortiz of Friends of the Earth Brazil said that Oxitec was using poor regions in the Global South, such as cities in the Northeast region of Brazil, as its laboratories

“Oxitec has not proven its mosquitoes are safe for people or the environment, nor has it been open and honest with the local communities about the possible risks its technology poses,” he said. “This news only highlights the need for all the company’s data on its mosquitoes to be made public so people and local governments can make informed decisions as to whether or not they want GM mosquitoes in their communities.”

Other countries where releases of Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes have been proposed include Panama, India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago.

See the Oxitec document here

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Category: FOI

Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I was saying this all summer and fall.  This was the worst year since ivan for mosquitos on North Side.  They were bigger, more numerous and out at all times of the day.  Im sure if the governement asked the people whether or not they wanted this experiment, everyone would have said 'no way'.  All is all, I am not one bit surprised that they f-ed it up.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm North Side/Frank Sound area.  I second that comment and would add, that they're still particularly bad there, particularly for this time of year when we usually get a break from  them.

  2. Epidemiologist says:


  3. Entomologist says:

    The NGOs are all out to confuse the people! They are just a bunch of pseudo-scientists.

    The mosquito which carries the dengue virus, Aedes aegypti can only breed in man-made containers with clear water. Such containers receive water only from 2 sources: rain and piped water, which neither contain tetracycline. Since this mosquito does NOT breed in sewer, pond, ground pool etc, how tetracycline can help them to survive is a great mystery to me, unless the NGO guys go around adding cat food into all the breeding containers they can find and to prove their point!

    Anyone with the right frame of  mind would not go against a technology that can save life and alleviate sufferings; in this case, from dengue which kills thousands especially children, each yera. There is no treatment or vaccine for dengue.  

    God bless you if you believe in what the NGOs are saying!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Somebody, somewhere in government took money from this company to authorize this. You can be sure this was not a freebie. MONEY WAS INVOLVED!

    Was it to finance an insatiable gambling addiction?

  5. Anonymous says:

    You guys are riled up for nothing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So the females of the surviving 15% could reproduce in agricultural waste waters where no previous mosquito would survive.  Is that the crux?  How many livestock farms are there?  Uncle Willies?  

  7. Anonymous says:

    MRCU has some explaining to do….  funny that we have not heard from them.

    • anonymous says:

      Already Bill Petrie came  with some story about how the british company was credible and what was said against it is false.

  8. Anonymus says:

    CNS, could you clarify this article a bit? The Oxitec document attached, wich is implied by its attachement is the evidence on which the article is based, at no time mentions Cayman. Therefore, at least if that document is all the proof available, it would appear innacurate to imply that the study during which the mosquitos accidentally received tetracycline and reproduced was the same as the study carried out in the Cayman Islands. Perhaps more documents have been released that makes the relationshp clear?

  9. Steve Burke says:

    Very sad to see GM experiments of any kind happening in Cayman, but that's just the kind of money that the biotech industry has to spend, they feel like they can buy out anyone and with the kind of mettle it takes to become a politician these days clearly they didn't have a hard time greasing some palms.

    The people should demand all experimentation stops until full disclosure of all safety studies and Environmental Impact Studies have been performed.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Shouldn't you all have maybe tested on sample before relasing them into the open like this?  If these genetically altered insects only needed some funky chicken to start reproducing, who says that all that garbage at the dump and the chemicals/fumes it gives off won't have them sprouting legs and taking over the island……and then…..the WORLD. *Dun Dun Dun*

  11. Whodatis says:



    Global population control (i.e. decrease).

    Chemical extermination.

    Disastrously botched chemical experiments.

    Notions of 2nd class world citizens.

    Australia, New Zealand?

    Simple and ignorant / arrogant recklessness?

    Not sure why, but these are the thoughts running through my mind subsequent to reading the above news story.

    (However, guaranteed shock outrage will demand that we wait for a "Oops, did we do that?!" moment aswitnessed in so many occasions in the past.)

    Regardless of the intent, there was absolutely no way we should have allowed any such "research" to take place in these islands – and shame on all entities that played a role in allowing this to happen.

    "Oops" is the most dangerous word in scientific vocabulary. Best to avoid it whenever possible.

    Don't mess with mother nature – for you never know, the beast you create could be far greater than the one you're fighting (Polio anyone?).

    * By the way, I do believe that Bill and Melinda Gates were instrumental in the framework of this type of research and even donated an initial sum to the tune of USD $20,000,000.00 to its developers. Surely none of that dinero made its way to the Cayman Isands … right?

    ** Furthermore, to believe that the West would invest hundreds of millions of dollars for the sole purpose of improving the lives of poor, non-White people in the "third world" is beyond laughable. Someone is looking to make a VERY pretty penny as that theory flies in the face of everything we have seen thus farin this regard.

    (Now if the benefits would ensure more healthy "3rd world" citizens to work at slave wages to extract the natural resources under their feet in order to continue the process of Western companies generating HUNDREDS of BILLIONS of dollars annually – then that would make sense.)

    Unfortunately, we have played a crucial role in this scheme, by way of second-choice I should add, for according to reports we were only considered AFTER Oxitec's efforts to carry out similar tests in Florida were outrightly rejected. Are we promised a share in the potential returns? (Not that we should want any.)

    This whole thing stinks to high heaven and I sincerely trust our government has duly secured the 'paper trail' regarding this "research" for I have a strong feeling we will be needing it in the future.

    Oh yeah … thanks Britain! "Good looking out" … not for us – but for your Oxford based Oxitec firm.

    • Anonymous says:


      Seriously – 5 ppl gave this thumbs down – get a clue…..THIS IS REAL – REAL LIFE! Get your head out of the clouds, feet on the ground and have a serious think about what has been done in our community, WITHOUT our input! FIVE PPL gave thumbs down – I’d like to hear their rebuttal of what “Whodatis” wrote.

      • Whodatis says:

        Hi poster,

        I sincerely appreciate your feedback and support, however, don't be too alarmed by the response to my initial comment.

        Whereas I don't expect every individual to agree with my perspective, there are certain folks here on CNS that would "thumbs down" Whodatis for merely stating that the sky is blue and the grass is green. The reasons for this are many and wide-ranging.

        All one can do is hold fast to one's beliefs and ever-increasing understanding of the world – all the while ignoring the fickle naysayers along the way.

        Take care.


      • Paul says:

        I didn't read it.  I see "Whodatis" at the top.  I know it will be a racist rant and so I save time by clicking thumbs down and move on to something more important.

        • Whodatis says:

          (Case in point.)

          Curious as to how you came to the conclusion that my post was 'racist' though. Kindly elaborate.

    • R.U. Kidden says:

      Whodatis, you say, "I sincerely trust our government has duly secured the 'paper trail' ".  Unfortunately our government doesn't have much success in following paper trails.  Would that it were true!

  12. Green Hornet says:

    As usual, nobody thought about the long-term impacts – and, unfortunately, politicians running every 4 years almost never do….

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is unbelievable! Who authorised this to happen in Cayman? CNS can you make a FOI?


    CNS: Anyone can make an FOI request and you can do so anonymously.

  14. Well says:

    My my dont we feel stupid! 

  15. Jackson says:

    It amazes me that government leaders made no mention of this to the public.  A british company could come here and experiment on the populous like ginea pigs, and they expect our relationship with the UK to become better???  I wonder if they are hiding the longterm effects as well if one of those genetically altered mosquitoes should bite a child. It is just amazing. I am surprised that Arden, Ezzard, Mark, and Dwayne of the eastern districts have said nothing about it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians for mosquitoes please stand up now. No more Expat mozzies.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I see a disaster movie…

  18. insane says:

    We all knew when they released this mosquitoes that wasn't a good idea…
    Thumbs down for their decision or a smiley (laugh) for the government!!!