In response to our letter and emails last week, Cornell’s vice president of University Relations informed us that Cornell has restricted the trials of genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at Cornell University’s Agricultural Research Station in Geneva to contained trials this summer. We are pleased with this news, however we remain concerned about the lack of transparency and public information and that the focus of the trials is on evaluating efficacy, rather than evaluating safety.
We continue to request full disclosure of information to allow public scrutiny and debate as well as a more complete description of the enclosures they are planning to use to contain the moths. In addition, we have asked for a copy of Cornell’s proposals in relation to improving the evaluation of biosafety prior to any open release, and specifically regarding the following:
- Toxicity testing of the GE moths in relation to impacts of consumption by humans or animals;
- Testing of the strain for undesirable properties such as pesticide resistance;
- Laboratory studies of potential impacts of tetracycline in relation to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the insects’ guts and the inadvertent survival of GE females (for all strains proposed for release);
- Monitoring of potential dispersal routes from proposed open sites, including wind dispersal to nearby farms (raising the risk of contamination, including of organic crops), and the potential for overwintering and encountering tetracycline contamination (e.g. in slurry) which could lead to inadvertent increases in survival of the offspring;
- Modeling of other biosafety issues, including potential impacts of releases on other species (including the potential for increases in other types of pest in response to population suppression of the moths).