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Cage trials for Diamondback Moth product test to begin

August 19, 2015

Following a thorough vetting process, both through the USDA APHIS permitting and Cornell University’s internal research board, this summer’s cage trials to test the genetically engineered diamondback moth (GE DBM), as developed by Oxitec, are commencing this week. Under the direction of Dr. Anthony Shelton, an internationally recognized authority on the DBM and a tenured Cornell University faculty member in entomology, this research is happening in confined cages with additional safeguards to assure robust and responsible science throughout the work. The trials are expected to conclude in late September.

As discussed below, in my initial announcement of this work, Cornell University and its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are committed to providing information about the status of the trials in order to promote public understanding of all aspects of agriculture.

Sincerely,
Kathryn J. Boor, PhD
The Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


June 11, 2015

In November 2014, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) issued a permit to Dr. Anthony Shelton, an internationally recognized authority on the diamondback moth (DBM) and a tenured Cornell University faculty member of entomology, to conduct product tests of Oxitec’s genetically engineered DBM. DBM destroy broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous crops. Cornell University and its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), which was not involved in the development of the genetically engineered moth, is conducting this independent assessment to determine if this technology is a viable solution to a real-world problem faced by farmers of these crops in New York State and around the globe. This research effort could lead to the reduction of the use of pesticides that currently are employed with these types of crops to control these destructive invasive insects. 

Since receiving the USDA-APHIS permit, Cornell and CALS leadership have been in discussion with Dr. Shelton regarding his plans for these tests. Conversations with Dr. Shelton have focused on implementation of a careful, systematic, and thorough approach for evaluating the efficacy of Oxitec’s moth in controlling the DBM as an agricultural pest. Based on these considerations, Dr. Shelton will conduct only enclosed cage trials this summer. This approach will allow the genetically engineered DBM moth to be studied in a controlled environment under conditions that closely resemble open field conditions.

To be clear, Cornell, CALS, and Dr. Shelton are committed to robust and responsible science. The proposed trials are governed by regulations outlined in the USDA-APHIS permit and have been reviewed by Cornell University’s Office of Research. Although the APHIS permit allows for open field releases of the moths, Cornell will not proceed with such releases this summer. After careful consideration, including consultation with an internal scientific advisory committee comprised of faculty not engaged in this work but whose research programs provide in-depth expertise on key aspects of this project, controlled enclosed cage trials were determined to be the most prudent approach for testing these moths.

In anticipation of the trials, CALS is notifying key public officials of the trials and will provide public information about the research on an ongoing basis.

Sincerely,
Kathryn J. Boor, PhD
The Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences