Three environmental groups are calling for a halt to the open field trials planned for GM moths at Cornell University.
Thus far, trials for genetically modified moths have taken place in closed-screen cages, but open field trials are planned by early next spring. The Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, and Friends of the Earth U.S., along with the Northeastern Organic Farming Association of New York, have expressed urgent concern ahead of the public comment period which is expected to open at the USDA, EPA, and FDA which would help determine policy for regulating the three-decade-old executive branch meant to oversee various agencies’ regulation of GE (genetically engineered) organisms.
Additionally, the UK-based group GeneWatch has also recently released a report detailing concerns around the GE moth.
Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, said:
“This field trial is moving forward with little to no assessment of the real world risks it presents. Once these GE moths are out in the wild, there is no turning back. Every possible scenario needs to be accounted for. Until federal agencies have implemented rigorous regulations around GE insects, this GE moth trial should be halted.”
Others have expressed concern when hundreds of thousands of GE diamondback moths are released near fields of organic cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower in New York without knowing the environmental impacts.
Considering that the GE moths are made to reproduce until there are no longer female moths, with female larvae dying off by design, there are implications for other insect populations. But the larvae will also die on plants like cabbage and broccoli, causing a huge pest control issue for organic farmers.
Additional concerns around the GE moths include:
- “Impacts on non-target species that might eat the larvae, including birds and other insects, as well as farmworkers and consumers that may come to ingest them through contact with crops;
- Development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment and food chain resulting from the use of a tetracycline antibiotic to breed the GE moths;
- Economic and agronomic challenges, for both conventional and organic farmers, to grow certain crops due to large releases of the moth;
- The lack of appropriate bio-security measures to assure those who do not wish exposure to GE moths (farmers and consumers) are protected from contamination. Windblown moths can be dispersed hundreds/thousands of miles from where they emerge.
- The field trial may even involve the release of additional non-GE diamondback moths, the pest that the GE version is meant to control, as there may not be enough of the pests in New York State for the experiment to be performed. This could ultimately increase pest pressure for farmers.”