Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 26th 2016 Contents A22
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, January 26, 2016
It is a well-accepted concept in the
biological control of pests that
stringent and unbiased research
must be conducted before releasing
any organism into the wild. One of
the reasons for this is that nature is
a network and upsetting her balance
causes secondary effects. A common
example of a secondary effect is the
rapid escalation of a secondary pest
when one tries to control the main
Given this well-established con-
cept, I have to wonder about these
sudden reported outbreaks of Zika
and chikungunya across the Americ-
as since 2014. We know about
dengue but how many of us have
ever heard of these other diseases
spread by the same mosquitoes?
In the Zika infection, the impacts
can be devastating with reports of
brain damage in newborn babies due
to the infection in pregnant women.
Have you seen the heart-breaking
photos of the infected newborns?
As if this was not catastrophic
enough, the Centre for Disease Con-
trol (CDC) in the USA is presently
working with authorities in Brazil to
study a possible link between Zika
and a usually rare syndrome known
to lead to paralysis.
Brazil appears to be the epicentre
of the Zika outbreak in the region,
tragically with nearly 3,900 infected
newborns. What happened in Brazil?
It is interesting to note that tests
were being conducted since 2011 and
in 2014, Brazil became the first
country to grant biosafety approval
for the commercial release of geneti-
cally modified (GM) mosquitoes to
help stop the spread of dengue. Sci-
entists transformed two genes in the
Aedes aegypti mosquito so that
when modified males breed with
wild females, the larva inherit a
lethal gene and die. Dead mosquitoes
means no dengue.
The GM mosquito is engineered
and produced by a UK biotechnology
company, Oxitec, which has close
links to the agri-business Syngenta
and says it has conducted successful
trials in selected countries including
Brazil. But one has to wonder if the
research was properly conducted? Is
the unexpected surge and spread a
result of a classic secondary out-
break? Was the science done proper-
ly?In the online magazine Genewatch
566989) it is reported that Oxitec
attempted to release other GM
insects without the conduct of the
required proper full environmental
risk assessments or public consulta-
tion, and was stopped due to the
vigilance of informed and active
groups such as GeneWatch UK.
Right now, residents of the Florida
Keys, USA, are up in arms about the
pending release of GM mosquitoes to
control dengue with over 155,000
signing a petition opposing the trial
of genetically-engineered mosquitoes.
It should be noted that the online
reports state that only 28 people
were affected with dengue in the
Florida Keys in 2009 and 2010. Is
this enough to warrant the release of
a still as yet controversial product?
While we in T&T are still grap-
pling with the availability and distri-
bution of H1N1 vaccines, Zika is
running rampant and will, without a
doubt reach our small islands, possi-
ble sooner than later. The CDC has
issued a warning to pregnant women
to avoid travel to 22 countries
including Barbados and Guyana. Fur-
ther to this, Brazil, Colombia, El Sal-
vador and Jamaica are all calling on
women to consider delay becoming
pregnant. As of January 19, 2016,
the CDC states that: "there is no
vaccine to prevent or medicine to
treat Zika" but we can be sure one
will be available shortly. Vaccines
are, after all, big business and con-
spiracy theories are running ram-
But more important than the vac-
cine is the absolute absence of an
effective public communications
strategy aimed at educating the pop-
ulation about dangerous and devas-
tating this threat that is so close.
Thank goodness for the print and
social media which is keeping us in
Reports state that it is possible for
Zika and dengue to co-exist, so are
our government labs prepared for
detection? Or is it that in these hard
times we will have to pay $700 and
more to find out if we test positive?
What happens if a pregnant woman
tests positive? Has the Ministry of
Health, Local Government and other
agencies started putting things in
place for immediate vector control or
would it be like in the past where
the Vector Control Unit comes to
spray the area a whole year after
The CDC clearly states: "Because
Zika virus outbreaks could cause
additional burdens on all levels of
the health care system, it is neces-
sary to develop and implement pro-
tocols and well-established plans for
the patient screening and treatment."
The literature also states that it
can be potentially transmitted
through blood transfusions and other
methods. Where is the information
for the public health and safety?
Once again, we the citizens have
to suffer for lack of good leadership
and proper management. It is now
beyond frustration and entering the
realms of hopelessness.
Lucille Whittier, the owner of
an organic garden above Pi-
rate's Bay had the vision to
engage Charlotteville children in a
hands-on agricultural activity as
an alternative to liming on the
block, playing video games or
Every Saturday morning she
teaches children how to look after
their plants, flowers and vegeta-
bles, turning them into garden
stewards for the future and learn-
ing about the importance of a
From the beginning of this year
tourists are afforded the opportu-
nity to experience gardening with
Charlotteville kids and contribute
to the upkeep of the garden. This
is an ideal outing for families and
garden lovers and a unique offer
for those visitors who want par-
ticipate in a community tourism
project. Visitors learn about local
organic gardening and plants as
well get some culinary insights.
They enjoy a delicious vegetarian
lunch and fresh fruit juices.
By taking part in this project
the tourists support and give back
to the children of Charlotteville.
The contribution goes towards
maintenance and upkeep, essen-
tial tools and small gifts for the
children to reward their efforts.
The Charlotteville Children' Or-
ganic Garden project is supported
by the Environmental Research In-
stitute Charlotteville (ERIC,
www.eric-tobago.org) to promote
tourism in Northeast Tobago.
Environmental Research Institute,
Charlotteville shows the way
CARE MUST BE TAKEN WITH
Esther Claus, right, Rhine Waal University student from Germany,
volunteered as an intern of ERIC.
Chilling out in Charlotteville.
A hands-on gardening experience.
Basking in Mother Nature.
Preparing a vegetarian lunch.
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