Genetically Modified Moths Released in New York – Christina Sarich

Biotech company Oxitec has released genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at Cornell’s agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York as part of an outdoor trial, and New Yorkers are more than just miffed.

Organic farmers, environmental groups, and New York citizens have sent a letter 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 demanding that field trials stop and to provide information to the public about the release of these GM moths.

Oxitec proposed field trials of their GE diamondback moth in September of 2014 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is more than likely the first time you are hearing of it.

While Oxitec claims they have had a genetic engineering breakthrough with their GM moth, since the diamondback is indeed a huge agricultural nuisance which damages thousands of acres annually, costing farmers more than $1 billion, they have no idea if their GM moths will cause even more damage.

This Isn’t the First Oxitec Disaster

As Natural Society previously reported, GM moths look to be no better than the GM mosquitoes that are planned for release in the Florida Keys. Oxitec has ties to Syngenta, so it is likely that they aren’t trying to breed out a nuisance moth, but create a super-pest that will make it easier to sell even more pesticides and herbicides.

Furthermore, are we trust the premise for the GM moth’s creation? When Oxitec wanted to release GM mosquitoes I Panama and Florida it was supposedly to control dengue which is spread by the Aedes mosquitoes, but the US hasn’t seen but a handful of dengue fever cases in the past several decades. Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes have a genetic ‘kill switch’ but no one is sure if it will work on just the GM variety or also on the bugs that interbreed with the GM ‘test’ insects. This is likely what we can expect with their GM moths.

Speaking to a Key Haven, Florida resident recently, it became apparent that Oxitec didn’t listen to neighborhood surveys that overwhelmingly were against the release of GM mosquitoes, so it is unlikely that the biotech company will listen to a letter. But what other recourse does a New York resident have? Certainly Florida residents didn’t sign up to be inundated with millions of GM mosquitoes carrying kill switch genes, which not only affect their ecosystem, but likely human health.

In fact, Oxitec and the FDA seem to be working together to deny citizen’s rights altogether. The concerned Key Haven resident I spoke with, Beth Eliot, said that in the last Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Board Meeting which she attended, public comments which were allowed at the meeting were against the release of these GM bugs. However, the District reports support of the release, even when door to door surveys conducted by FKMCD have painted a very different picture.

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