GM mosquitoes have been flying around the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman for over a year.
This has been the first ever trial of GM mosquitoes in the fight against Dengue fever.
There have been some very positive results, say scientists from the company Oxitec, a spin out from Oxford University.
Great to have good results in the fight against this terrible disease. But the news has taken everyone – the research community as well as opponents of GM mosquitoes – by surprise.
Oxitec insists there was no secrecy around the trials, it was just not picked up internationally, that’s all….. The local community knew all about it.
So was there secrecy? It seems there was at least no open and active discussion.
The WHO organisation knew of the trials, and is not aware Oxitec has done anything wrong.
But others are suspicious of what they see as a lack of openness.
”If these mosquitoes are completely safe, then why the hush-hush?” says Gurmit Singh, chair of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development in Malaysia, where Oxitec hopes to start a field trial soon as well.
The lack of openness has also caused unease with Oxitec’s fellow collaborators in a $19.7 million project funded by the Gates foundation.
Professor Anthony James from the University of California is leading this project and has spent years preparing a study site in Mexico for a potential GM mosquito trial. This work has included extensive dialogues with the local community and Professor James says his project would “never” release GM mosquitos in the manner Oxitec has.
Let’s see how this progresses, it’s a new story, but I suspect Oxitec might come to regret a lack of openness and dialogue.