The US Department of Agriculture recently published its final environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact (FOSNI) report, paving the way for the newly engineered moth to be released. Passing both of these assessments with flying colours, the USDA announced permits would be granted almost straight away and said wider environmental impact assessments weren’t necessary.
Diamondback moths are a European species that have spread around the world, causing headaches for gardeners and farmers alike. They feed on members of the brassica family and in the US alone it’s thought their damage hovers at around $5 billion annually.
The GE moths are engineered to be self limiting, with males fathering female offspring that die before they reach maturity. If successful, the release could see populations of diamondback moths crumbling in North America as the engineered males spread far and wide.
To help with identification, the GE moths bear a red marker to distinguish them from wild populations.
The field trial site is in New York and is run by Cornell University. The news has attracted criticism from organic farming groups already, who say the USDA shouldn’t be releasing the insects without a full and thorough environmental impact assessment.