The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) seeks public comments on its environmental assessment of the proposed field release of a genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moth. A plant pest that feeds on cruciferous crops, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collard, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, turnip, and watercress, the diamondback, also known as the cabbage moth, is said to be highly fecund, capable of migrating long distances when carried by the wind and short lived. Some researchers attribute the increasing significance of the moth as a plant pest to insecticide resistance.
The GE variety has been developed for “repressible female lethality and to express red fluorescence as a marker.” According to APHIS, “The purpose of the field release is to assess the feasibility and efficacy of these moths in reducing populations of non-genetically engineered diamondback moths.”
Cornell University requested the permitted field release of three strains of the GE diamondback moth in Geneva, New York, during a trial that would not exceed three years and would be limited to six sites not exceeding 10 acres per site, “surrounded by other agricultural fields” within an 870-acre tract. The release would involve 20,000 GE moths per release per site, with up to five releases per week per site, and monitoring with traps would occur for two weeks after each release concludes. Comments on the environmental assessment are requested by September 29, 2014. See Federal Register, August 28, 2014.