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Will New York Become the Location of the First Worldwide Open-air Trials of a Genetically-engineered Diamondback Moth?

Will New York Become the Location of the First Worldwide Open-air Trials of a Genetically-engineered Diamondback Moth?

Thank you to Liana Hoodes, NOFA-NY's Policy and Advocacy consultant for this blog:

In 2014, Dr. Anthony Shelton of Cornell University was granted a USDA/APHIS permit for the world’s first open trials of a Genetically Engineered Diamondback moth (GDM)1 at the Geneva, NY Experiment Station. In 2015 the experiments were done outdoors in netted cages.

We don’t know the results of these trials, but in March 2016, following a request by USDA/APHIS, Cornell withdrew their permit. Within days a new permit application was re-submitted, and it is now working its way through USDA. After this, they will need NYS approval.  While it is unlikely that there will be any trials in 2016, open-air trials are scheduled to take place during the 2017 growing season. It is essential that we all understand the details of these trials – risks or rewards.

And it is essential that New Yorkers get a voice in the process.

During most of the past year, NOFA-NY, Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, and GeneWatchUK – have been requesting more detailed information from both USDA and Cornell about impacts as well as process. It has been slow in coming and many questions remain.

Whatever the pros and cons of the technology, it is high time for New Yorkers to have all the information in hand before the moths are let out into the environment.

Very little health and environmental review has been completed about this moth. Oxitec2, the developer of the GDM, neglected to complete the Health and Environmental studies required by the EU or the Cartegena Protocol, leaving many health and environmental questions unanswered. When pressed, they claim that this technology is similar to others that were already assessed. That’s just not true – this is the first open trial of the female lethality trait.

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Wondering How to Avoid Food Containing GMOs? Read on...

[caption id="attachment_103" align="alignleft" width="225"]Frederick wheat GMO-free Organic Wheat

Genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients are found in much of the processed and conventionally grown foods available to us today.   Currently there is no requirement for food to be labeled if it contains GMO ingredients, making it challenging for people who prefer to avoid eating foods containing GMOs.  While the movement to require labeling of GMO foods is gaining steam across the country and in New York State, many people are wondering today how they can avoid GMO foods.  While we continue to fight for your right to know what is in your food, here are some quick and easy steps that you can take if you would like to avoid GMO foods when possible.

Buy certified organic. USDA Certified Organic foods may not utilize any GMO ingredients. This means certified organic beef, chicken and hogs may only be fed GMO-free feed.   Certified organic fruits, vegetables, and grains must be grown from GMO-free seed.  While some certified organic producers have taken the extra step to have their products also labeled as GMO-free, the fact is that ALL certified organic products are GMO-free – even those not specifically labeled as such.  When buying non-organic foods, look for products that are specifically labeled as non-GMO or GMO-free.

Shop local.   Get you know your local farmers at your farmers markets or through a CSA. You can ask your local farmers about their practices and often you can even arrange a farm visit so you know where your food is coming from and how it is produced.  When you buy your food locally and avoid processed foods, you can control the ingredients and know what you are eating!

Know your GMOs! When purchasing non-organic and processed foods, be aware of the top GMO crops and GMO ingredients:

  • Canola or rapeseed oil

  • Corn - including high fructose corn syrup

  • Cottonseed oil

  • Soybeans – including soy lecithin and soy additives

  • Sugar beets – which may appear simply as sugar

While there is currently no requirement for foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such, a groundswell of energy to label GMO foods is underway across the country, and you can help make this happen.

In NYS, a coalition that includes GMOFree NY, NOFA-NY, Food and Water Watch, Hunger Action, Consumers Union, NYPIRG, Natural Resources Defense Council, Catskill Mountaineer, Fire Dog Lake, Good Boy Organics, Green Party of New York, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter is campaigning for a  rewritten state labeling law – A 3525 - S 3835. This bill will require that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in New York be labeled as such.

While A 3525/S3835 did not pass in 2014, we did get it through several committees in both houses.  So far, there are 70 sponsors in the Assembly and 17 in the Senate.   Please call your representatives and ask them to become sponsors for A 3525/S3835. Let’s push hard for the 2015 session so that NY can join Connecticut, Maine and Vermont in passing GE labeling. Then GE labeling for the whole country will be next!

For more information, links to your legislators and the latest action alerts see the NOFA-NY website and


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