Beyond Pesticides: Cornell University announced today (Monday) that it will conduct an informational meeting on Wednesday to be followed shortly by the release of genetically engineered diamondback moths. Under the plan, up to 10,000 genetically engineered (GE) male diamondback moths (DBMs) will be released each week during the cabbage planting cycle (which runs about three to four months). According to USDA, “The males are genetically engineered with a lethal gene that they pass on to females when they mate.” Because of the widespread release, this plan –a first of its kind in food crops– will contaminate organic farms with genetically engineered material. And, this is all being done based on a cursory environmental assessment, without an in-depth environmental impact assessment. Many questions have been left unanswered.
When: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 9
Where: Jordan Hall Auditorium, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, 630 West North St., Geneva.
We encourage anyone who can make it to the meeting on such short notice to show up and express opposition to the project.
Those who cannot attend can still voice concerns by submitting questions that have not been adequately addressed to the meeting organizers here.
Below are some questions you might choose to ask. We believe that it will be more effective if many people choose a few questions than if everyone submits the whole list — and asking your own questions is also encouraged!
Regarding the use of the antibiotic tetracycline:
1. Have you evaluated whether the Tetracycline ‘switch’ that you use will add to antibiotic resistance of this important human antibiotic?
2. With the use of a tetracycline antibiotic to breed the GE moths, how will you prevent the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their guts and subsequent spread into the environment and food chain?
3. If there is tetracycline in the environment, will it turn off the ‘female lethality trait’ switch, allowing significantly more females to survive? Tetracycline is used to manage fire blight in apple trees, including potentially at tests at the Geneva Experiment Station, and is routinely used in animal production and is known to persist in manure from these animals. Farms frequently use direct manure applications or compost applications (derived from manure) for fertility.
Mobility of DBMs:
1. Since DBM generally travel on the wind, how do you know that they won’t leave the site on a wind gust or storm, so prevalent in this part of NYS?
2. Have you studied wind patterns for this time of year in the Geneva area?
3. Have you mapped the migration of non-GE DBM in/through the Geneva area?
Studies of the impacts on human health and other species:
1. Have the allergenicity and toxicity of components other than the green fluorescent protein –e.g., tTAV and DsRed2—been evaluated?
2. Have there been specific health studies of the effect of this specific GE insect on humans who may ingest the GE larvae or inhale the GE moths themselves?
3. Have there been specific health studies of the effect of this specific GE insect on wildlife (birds and other mammals) who may ingest the GE larvae or inhale the GE moths?
4. Have there been specific health studies of the effect of this specific GE insect on soil biota where the dead larvae may drop?
5. Are the GMO larvae safe to eat? Please point to safety testing for consumption by humans or animals, including wildlife.
6. What are the impacts on Non-target species that might eat the GDM larvae such as:
⦁ Farmworkers (on adjacent farms not prepared for an onslaught) who may breathe or ingest large amounts of dead larvae debris or live adults?
⦁ Vegetable consumers who may eat dead GDM larvae remaining on the vegetable?
⦁ Other birds and animals that may eat the plant, larvae, or debris?
⦁ Non-target species in or on the soil that might eat or come in contact with dead GDM larvae that drop to the ground?
1. If farmers have cabbage and other brassica fields near the Geneva test plots, will their brassica crops be affected by insect releases at the Experiment station?
2. Will there be a need to spray more than usual to control Diamondback moth?
3. Is there a greater risk of contamination of crops by larvae?
4. Tackling only a single pest reduces competition and can lead to explosions in other types of pests. Have studies been done to evaluate possible consequences of such an imbalance?
5. What will happen when male GDM spread outside the trial site? Could breeding and release of large numbers lead to a resistance to the female lethality trait? Could the GDM encounter sufficient tetracycline in the environment to allow them to survive and breed?
In the long term:
1. In what ways do developers expect the insects to mutate and evolve as releases continue?
2. Will resistance to the killing trait evolve over time? In general, 1% of the female moths are expected to survive. There is also a chance that those that survive will eventually build resistance to the ‘female lethality trait’ and/or to pesticides currently used to control them.
1. Will consumers – especially organic consumers – be willing to purchase NY cabbage and other brassicas if they believe it may be contaminated with GE larvae?
2. How will organic farmers and other farmers who do not wish to have GDM on their crops be protected from spread of GDM to their fields?
3. Who will be liable and responsible for contamination by GDM?