USDA Considers Release of 2 Genetically Modified Organisms – DTN

Orange fruit with citrus greening. Photo: University of Florida

In the past two weeks, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has released documents on proposals to release two genetically modified (GM) organisms: diamondback moths and a virus designed to control the citrus greening disease attacking the citrus industry.  

Diamondback moths are a global pest of cruciferous crops such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. On April 18, USDA released a draft environmental assessment of a proposed experiment by a Cornell entomologist with GM diamondback moths. The scientist, Anthony Shelton, plans to release tens of thousands of GM moths into a 10-acre vegetable field to test their potential as an “insecticide-free” control option for diamondback moths. The GM moths have been engineered to repress female survival, known as a “female autocidal trait.” They also express a protein that makes them glow red, to help researchers distinguish them from wild diamondback moths. After the experiment, researchers would kill the moths with insecticide. Any escapees would eventually perish in the cold New York winters. Here is the USDA’s environmental assessment of this experiment, which concludes that it would have no harmful effects: https://goo.gl/….

Citrus greening has devastated the citrus industry around the world, as well as in the U.S. Once infected, citrus trees stop producing any edible fruit. The disease is caused by a bacteria and has no known cure. Attempts to develop GM citrus trees that are resistant to it has been met with public outcry. Now a Florida nursery, Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery, is proposing the release of a GM virus, Citrus tristeza virus, which has been engineered to express bacteria-fighting proteins found in spinach. The GM virus, which has been undergoing controlled field tests since 2010, would be grafted — not sprayed — onto citrus trees in Florida. USDA has announced its intent to launch an environmental impact statement on Southern Garden’s proposal. You can see it here: https://goo.gl/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com.

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.


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