GM Moths Field Release near New York Causes Outrage

Posted on Jun 11 2015 - 10:18pm by Sustainable Pulse

Environmental, advocacy and organic farming organizations have sent a letter Thursday to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball along with Cornell University President David Skorton and Agricultural School Associate Dean Susan Brown, urging them to release information to the public about the field release of genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at Cornell’s agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York and to stop any outdoor trials until more adequate information is available.

In September 2014 several of the organizations commented on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s environmental assessment (EA) for the proposed field release of Oxitec’s GE diamondback moths at Cornell University. The agency did not contact the organizations to address their myriad concerns, and months later, the groups found out through a separate correspondence with the USDA that the GE moth permit had been quietly approved with no press release or other public notification.

“This release of genetically engineered autocidal moths is the first of its kind in the United States and it sets a very poor precedent that they were released with minimal environmental review and transparency,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The USDA’s irresponsible management of this genetically engineered insect is putting the environment and agriculture at risk.”

“Proposals to release GE moths in England were halted in 2012 amid concerns about the risk assessment. Many issues that would be closely studied before the moths were released in Europe have not yet been considered in the USA,” said Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. “Consumers and farmers deserve much better information about GE insects that could end up in the food chain.”

“The USDA took comments on whether this first genetically engineered insect should be released for field trials and then without responding to our comments approved the trials without public notice,” said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. “The first use of GE insects in an agricultural setting should have required public consultations with potentially affected parties, as well as, trials in physically enclosed spaces before even considering open field trials. This violates one of the basic principles of biosafety for genetically engineered organisms—that they should be physically constrained in trials, not openly released.”

The mechanism for these GE moths to control population levels is for offspring to die in the larval stage. The larval moths will die on plants, including crops such as broccoli and cabbage. In its assessment, the USDA failed to recognize that if farms near the field trial sites happen to be certified organic or non-GE, their certification could be lost if these larval stage GE moths were present because genetic engineering, even for pest control, is prohibited. With no prior public information, accidental escapes and contamination would be a significant issue for proximate fields.

“The USDA has dropped the ball by approving this field trial without a thorough review and without notifying New York’s organic farmers. The loss of certification would be a major economic problem for these operations, threatening future earnings from their crops and wiping out a major investment of time and money to get the certification,” said Anne Ruflin, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. “If GE contamination occurs, it has the potential to not only permanently damage long-standing partnerships with organic buyers but also to destroy an organic farmer’s livelihood and standing in the community.”

“The maker of these moths, Oxitec, has had a long track record of conducting GE insect field trials throughout the world without proper notification of the public and now they have brought their model to the United States,” said Lisa Archer, Friends of the Earth Food & Technology Program Director. “The USDA and Cornell must put a stop to this activity and ensure that these insects have been thoroughly reviewed before they are released into the wild.”

Read the letter here:


Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, aseiler(at)centerforfoodsafety(dot)org

Anne Ruflin, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Anne(at)nofany(dot)org

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK

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Sustainable Pulse is a global news outlet covering sustainable agriculture, GMOs and pesticides.

28 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Anne Temple June 11, 2015 at 22:30 - Reply

    This is a travesty — did anyone think that these moths also serve another purpose — as food for other animals? This stuff makes me sick.

    • Brenda Johns June 12, 2015 at 18:43 - Reply

      I was thinking the same thing, it’s mad. It’s beyond belief.

  2. Judith Nailer June 12, 2015 at 05:34 - Reply

    Birds and spiders feed on these genetically modified moths. Ants, lacewings, and wasps feed on them too at the caterpillar stage.

  3. We are All Gay in the USA! June 12, 2015 at 19:56 - Reply

    Pseudo scientists practicing bad high school science fair biology projects for fun and for profit.

  4. Karen Becker June 12, 2015 at 20:43 - Reply

    This is just unbelievable. Why do the corporate interests continue to take precedence over the health of the human race and of our environment and this planet? This world is not big enough for greed to rule regulations and behavior without thoughtfully considering the consequences of those on the long term health of our environment and thereby the health of each one of us living on this planet.

    • Mark Ramos June 14, 2015 at 07:27 - Reply

      In reading the article when were the Gmo moths released? Why would releasing these moths be bad?
      Diamond back moth is the most important pest of crucifers worldwide, causing millions of dollars annually in economic damage. The main control is calendar sprays of insecticides, including malathion, warrior and others sprayed weekly to cabbage fields, DDT is still being used to combat DBM in third world countries. The effect of these pesticides on non target insects including benificial and non target insects has been studied,not to mention the bioaccumulate of these pesticides in the environment.. With the constant application of pesticides, secondary pests outbreaks (army worm, cabbage butterfly’s) are a constant problem to growers. In addition with the high selection pressure applied to Diamond backed moth by insecticides and short generation time resistance to the chemical control develops rapidly. Check out what chemicals and how many different families are used in a single growing season on a cabbage crop.
      The amount of chemicals used annually to control this pest is measured in tons!
      There is testing done before an Gmo insect is released
      Check out successes world wide by releasing Gmo insects with no problems on humans or other non targets. Examples are: sterile release of Gmo sterile males to control screw worm a cattle pest in south United States, sheep blow fly in Australia,and many other successes. Control of these insects was done at a fraction of the cost with no effect on non target organisms.
      The choice chemicals which are lethal to benificial, non target insects which accumulate in the environment and are now linked to human health
      Or a control measure specific to the target insect with no effects on beneficial and non target insects?
      There are dozens of beneficial microscopic parasitic wasps, predatory beetles, lacewings which are present in
      the environment which are natural enemies
      Of insect pests, the effects of chemicals on these guys is horrific.
      Sorry for the length and if I ticked anyone off but this the other side of the argument

      • Super User June 14, 2015 at 16:47 - Reply

        Right. And drinking Roundup is ‘safe’. smh

      • Mary Beth June 15, 2015 at 03:12 - Reply

        Your response is quite reasonable, however it think this is not a site where people will be open to your comments.

      • Tanya Marquette January 12, 2016 at 13:46 - Reply

        While sounding reasonable, you simply are not. Your comments seem to totally ignore the impact of GMO’s on the health of workers, and the economics of organic and sustainable farmers.

        Why are the interests of mono-culture argi-corporations more important than the those of organic farmers and the public that does not want GMOs.

        Why do people like you chose to ignore the fact that increasing numbers of countries are banning GMOs?

        Do you only listen to corporate propaganda for your information? Why aren’t you reading the reports of independent researchers, or science from other than the US where corporate interests prevail? Do you even realize how much science is controlled by corporate interests?

        And what about the idea of democratic process that puts the interest of the public front and center? Is it okay to diss democracy when it is convenient or profitable?

        Further, do you ever pay attention to the politics of science and how the FDA, CDC and USDA work?

        And last, why is it that organic farmers do not have the insect problems of earth poisoning/depleting corporate agriculture? Why are sustainable practices easily able to produce gorgeous healthy food with toxic methods?
        Do you even know that homeopathy, a 100% safe energy form of healing also works on agriculture?

        So sounding reasonable on your part does not make you so. I suggest you open up to other sources of information and expand your knowledge base.

    • David Steele June 29, 2015 at 01:47 - Reply

      It is a money thing. Period. The corporation with the most assets when the world dies… wins.

  5. Irina June 12, 2015 at 21:15 - Reply

    This is another reason NOT to trust US Government!! They don’t give a #$%^ about anybody but their money and power!

    • mrs dondarrian June 14, 2015 at 05:23 - Reply

      How many birds and other beneficials will now die because of eating these pesticidal ungodly creatures? How soon will it be before these moths breed with others and soon we get monsters?

  6. Tanya June 13, 2015 at 00:50 - Reply

    Monsanto has the FDA in their pocket the font care about anything but poisening the world for a profit. I think they are the devil.

  7. Maxine Cottrell June 13, 2015 at 01:44 - Reply

    “…might end up in the food chain…” Really? Oxitec looks like it’s sponsored by Cornell University. We need to remind Cornell’s scientists that environmental ecology is the real big picture. Organisms don’t exist in a vacuum, even genetically engineered ones.

  8. Lisa Smith June 13, 2015 at 08:28 - Reply

    I would say, if this affects proximal organic farms, it’s time to sue the hell out of the USDA, Oxitec and anyone else involved in this stupid decision.

  9. Regas June 13, 2015 at 19:07 - Reply

    And now we know how beasts such as Mothra and Rodan came about came to be …

  10. Mike June 13, 2015 at 19:51 - Reply

    re Karen Becker, Irena: yes, power of corp. greed, corrupting power in general, and any/some individual or group that pridefully knows what is ‘better’ or good for the rest of us. And especially when the finality of risks is borne out by and on these rest of us. Also maybe a little pride of the inventor in ‘see what I/we did.’

  11. Patricia June 14, 2015 at 05:38 - Reply

    Has it occurred to anyone else that this may have been deliberate?People have been leaving big business in droves and running to local organic farms. Bankrupt the small farmer, and we’ll have no choice but to eat their garbage!

    • Vicki Herndon June 27, 2015 at 15:00 - Reply

      Sounds about right, Patricia!

  12. Kim June 14, 2015 at 05:43 - Reply

    Why is it that a handful of buffoons are allowed to make decisions that are completely idiotic? It should be the people coming together as a nation who get to determine how things will be done and run.

  13. Squafdonoboles June 14, 2015 at 07:53 - Reply

    Anyone remember the Gypsy Moth invasion?

  14. rebecca June 14, 2015 at 07:58 - Reply

    Our government has become so dumbed down and unconscious. Why would they approve this reckless release of a GMO that will have unknown and potentially devastating consequences, all in secret while knowing that many, if not most, of the people they represent would be opposed? We must vote for Bernie Sanders who understands why this must be stopped before it is too late. I vote only for politicians who are opposed to GMOs.

  15. Jilli June 14, 2015 at 12:24 - Reply

    Did we learn NOTHING from Jurassic Park? Stop Fucking with Mother Nature before we all die!

    • Hotshot3000 June 21, 2015 at 05:14 - Reply

      Yes, because Jurassic Park was a historical documentary.

  16. Rob June 14, 2015 at 16:38 - Reply

    don’t fuck with nature, they rape you back.

  17. Super User June 14, 2015 at 16:55 - Reply

    Hate to think of experiments they’ve done, we’ll never hear about. The cancer rate here is outrageous.

  18. CRECENCIO ELENES June 14, 2015 at 21:40 - Reply


  19. Valerie Collins June 23, 2015 at 02:20 - Reply

    Hi Mark Ramos! I can’t say if the moths are good or if the moths are bad…but aren’t the people of NY – their crops, etc., worthy of notification that the trial will be done? Or, better yet, keep the trial in a controlled environment…inside a building/lab. Why risk it?? Maybe they’ll be the greatest thing since non-gmo vegetables, but who knows??

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