NOFA-NY statement to Cornell forum discussing the release of the Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moth

August 09, 2017

NOFA-NY has enjoyed many years of a very productive relationship with Cornell on other projects and programs that are beneficial to the farming community of New York State. We have worked for several years tracking, researching, and communicating with Cornell about this proposed research project.

We must open with our great disappointment at your very short notice about this sole public meeting. You have stated that you want to be transparent, yet giving 2 days notice on a topic of such import shows the opposite.

NOFA-NY firmly believes that it is the responsibility and legal obligation of both Cornell and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to perform a comprehensive environmental review and evaluate potential impacts prior to releasing this brand new organism on the world.

Our concern from the beginning has not been to stifle cutting-edge science, whether or not we agree with it, but to advocate for transparency in the process and precaution in the advancement of new technologies to ensure the health and safety of people, all creatures, and the environment.

We have outlined our specific concerns, and asked for comprehensive evaluation of potential impacts which we have also detailed to the federal and state governments as well as to Cornell University and Dr. Shelton.

Yet, time and again, we have been served with pat answers that could have been used in any discussions of emerging technologies for the past decades. Comments such as “it is virtually no different than the non-GE version,” or “that health effect has already been studied for other insects.”

Let’s be clear. This is the first world-wide release of the Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moth and the first use of ‘female lethality’ trait on a pest to a food crop in the world.

Let’s also be clear that the idea that the moth will not leave the trial site because there will be enough food provided and because they are weak flyers does a dis-service to the many New Yorkers living in the region. Despite the best of intentions, we all know that the insects have not been shown the maps of the political boundaries, and winds in New York do not listen to the needs of our land grant.

Yet, this has been the basis for not doing comprehensive environmental impacts on New York – such as wind studies, analysis of the types of populations in the region (how many schools, natural areas, or city centers that might be the host to even one rogue genetically engineered moth.

Our questions:

  1. Please tell us why you have chosen to begin the open air release without doing a comprehensive environmental/health review, including specific evaluation of potential impacts to the Geneva region and the nearby Federal Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge?
  2. In your original permit from USDA which was withdrawn and resubmitted, you were also permitted for releasing Non-Genetically Engineered moths if there was an insufficient natural population of this plant pest. Will you be releasing or considering releasing non-wild, Non-Genetically Engineered moths as well in this round of open-air experiments?
  3. Why did you choose to give so little notice of this – your only – outreach meeting?

Read the statement here.