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Genetically Engineered Moth Trials

By Lori Fontanes, August 8, New York

According to Liana Hoodes, Policy Advisor, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), Cornell University plans to begin open-air trials of genetically modified diamondback moths at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York, sometime this month. Hoodes received notice of the pending first-time release of the novel species from a representative at Cornell a few days before the university’s sole public forum regarding the field release experiments. The public meeting, to be held today (August 9), will feature a panel of experts headed by Cornell entomologist Dr. Anthony Shelton and NYSAES interim director Dr. Jan Nyrop as well as a representative from U.K.-based Oxitec Ltd., the manufacturer of the imported GE insect. Oxitec is the company that also engineered the modified Aedes aegypti mosquito that has been at the center of a similar debate in the Florida Keys.

Although not listed as an invasive species in New York by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, diamondback moth is a serious scourge of cruciferous crops around the world. As Shelton and Nyrop wrote recently in Finger Lakes Times, the tiny moth is “one of the world’s worst agricultural pests,” causing global damages estimated at “up to $5 billion each year.” Organic farmers in New York, however, have also expressed concerns about the possible negative economic impacts from a GE version of the insect. NOFA-NY, in particular, has continually raised the issue of risks to organic growers’ federal certifications as well as to their livelihoods if GE insects eventually come to market. Continue Reading →