West Bay residents aired their concerns about plans to release millions of genetically modified mosquitos, right in their community.
The Mosquito Research and Control Unit and the maunufacturer of the augmented aedis aegypti mosquitos made their their case for the so-called “friendly” mozzies in a public meeting.
But could they win over the hearts and minds of the West Bay public?
“This is a genetically modified mosquito. I want to get that out of the way first, so everyone is really clear about that,” said Oxitec Product Development Manager Dr. Derric Nimmo.
Yes, they’re genetically modified, and yes, they will be released in West Bay neighborhoods starting in June.
The MRCU and Oxitec, who manufactures the so-called “friendly” aedis aegypti hope the GMO mosquito will help control the primary vector for Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue.
“I haven’t formed a solid opinion one way of the other, but I ‘m in favor of any kind of controls that will help reduce the transmission of disease,” long time West Bayer Kerith McCoy told Cayman 27 before the presentation.
He described his memories of the mosquito choked skies of his youth.
“You could actually squeeze mosquitos, you could just reach out and grab a handful of mosquitos,” he said.
He listened as Oxitec’s Dr. Nimmo explained.
“We release males into the environment, remember, the males don’t bite or transmit disease. Those males have one job: to go and find find females and pass on their genes,” said Dr. Nimmo.
Those offspring with the self-limiting gene, said Dr. Nimmo, die. A fluorescent marking gene tracks the progress and helps determine how many more GMO males need to be released for control to be achieved over the population.
“It may be better than a chemical alternative, because there’s a school of thought that chemicals haven’t worked that well for all of these generations,” said Mr. McCoy, after the two-and-a-half hour meeting.
He said if the trial doesn’t bring results, pull the plug. But if it is effective, he said carry on.
The MRCU described Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquito as a “proven” technology.
The manufacturer says it has five previous trials under its belt, including one in East End back in 2009 and 2010.
Oxitec told Cayman 27 West Bay is geographically the ideal place to start an island-wide roll out of the programme.