GMO Food

FrankenMoths Attack Organic Farmers in Upstate New York

Or so some hyperventilating scaremongering nitwits would have you think.

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Mothra
blackgate

Evil commercial laboratories have unleashed the moral equivalent of Mothra* on unsuspecting practitioners of the organic cult in upstate New York state. Or so some anti-biotech alarmists would have the public believe. What has actually happened is that the company Oxitec has engineered male Diamonback moths so that when they mate with wild female Diamondback moths they pass a long an autocidal gene that kills off larva before they can develop. Diamondback moths are not native to the United States and are a big pest for growers of brassica plants including canola, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. As Oxitec points out:

The approach is toxin-free and does not target beneficial predators or insects.

The male moths only mate with their own species so the genes don't spread. And the insects die out so the released insects and their genes do not persist in the environment.

Reducing reliance on insecticides will help beneficial insects, like bees, to thrive.

In fact, Oxitec has shown considerable success with a pilot program in which engineered autocidal mosquitoes in Panama reduced the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses, by more than 90 percent.

The organic cultists do not even claim that the moths will significantly harm the environment or people. So why then do they oppose the field testing of this beneficial technology? Because it violates a taboo.

The letter from the self-appointed high priests, ah, organic advocates at Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, and Gene Watch UK asserts: 

The mechanism for these GE moths to control population levels is for offspring to die in the larval stage. The larval moths will die on plants, including crops such as broccoli and cabbage. In its assessment, the USDA failed to recognize that if farms near the field trial sites happen to be certified organic or non-GE, their certification could be lost if these larval stage GE moths were present because genetic engineering, even for pest control, is prohibited. The loss of certification is a major economic hardship for these operations, threatening future earnings from their crops and wiping out a major investment of time and money needed to get the certification. If GE contamination occurs, it has the potential to not only permanently damage long-standing partnerships with organic buyers but also to destroy an organic farmer's livelihood and standing in the community.

That's right—tiny bits of dead larva parts might get stuck on the leaves of an organic cabbage thus making it ritually unclean. Never mind that this technology could be a big boon for their neighboring conventional farmers who do not subcribe to the obscurantist dogmas of the organic creed. 

For my part, I urge Oxitec to hurry up and develop autocidal Tiger mosquitoes and release them at my home as quickly as possible.

*Apologies to Mothra who really is a benign protector of the Earth.

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  1. Is that Mothra!?

    /Big Stein

  2. In fact, Oxitec has shown considerable success with a pilot program in which engineered autocidal mosquitoes in Panama reduced the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses, by more than 90 percent.

    That is awesome. I nominate Alaska as the next test area.

    1. Kill those fucking ‘white socks’ once and for all. Once you get by one of those, you reach a new level of hate for mosquitoes.

  3. Much, much easier, Ron, to just run the Diamondback moths through teeny tiny woodchippers, don’t you think?

    1. It was tried – the bycatch was unaccepable, and the time cost of the operation meant too little impact was had.

    2. Or one really large woodchipper named…Mecha Godzilla.

      1. Mechagodzilla did not behave like a woodchipper.

        1. asianchipper

  4. their certification could be lost …The loss of certification is a major economic hardship…time and money needed to get the certification.

    Sounds like the certification might be the problem

    1. If it’s something that washes off, why would it cost them certification?

      Oh, it’s an article of faith, like the meat knife not being suitable for cheese products, even after washing.

    2. I.e. they won’t be able to charge $5 for a head of lettuce that is indistinguishable from a $2 head of lettuce.

      1. Did they drop you from the case yet, or the case altogether Rhywun?

    3. I do like the idea of developing autocidal tigers for dealing with the organic farmer problem.

      1. Dude, that’s what STEVE SMITH is for.

        1. STEVE SMITH PRACTICE ALL NATURAL, ORGANIC FARMER RAPE!

  5. That’s right – tiny bits of dead larva parts might get stuck on the leaves of an organic cabbage thus making it ritually unclean.

    Awesome.

  6. If these organic farmers don’t want strange bugs landing on their plants, I would think they would invest in netting to keep out pests.

    It seems to me, they prefer losing half their crop to protecting it adequately.

    Fascinating.

    1. “Those nets are not organic!”

      /low priest of the Carbon Cult

    2. Why should they have to keep the bugs off of their plants? Why not teach the bugs not to land on the plants instead?

      1. Yes, this us exactly it, Male Bug Sex Re-Education.

        1. Male bugs have little-to-no control over where the larvae hatch/develop, but you’re probably right that we should blame and re-educate them anyway.

      2. Did I just victim blame!

        Oh god; my SJW cred just went into the toilet… again!

    3. You are missing the point.

      The ecofreaks are defending parasite rights.

  7. I’d be fine if they took this approach to the Asian lady beetles, too.

    1. Me too.

      I have to put up with them invading my house every winter.

  8. And while they’re at it, they can add ticks to the list of insects to kill off by this process as well.

  9. *Apologies to Mothra who really is a benign protector of the Earth.

    I was about to explode in righteous anger…but then saw this. All is well.

  10. I have zero problem with suppressing insect pests. One concern brought up by others is that these species are food for other species up the food chain. Any info on the extended impacts, or is it a non-issue on the impact of the total available insect biomass?

    1. NAS: Such food chain concerns might suggest that pesticides should be banned too. That would have significantly deleterious effects on the human food chain.

      1. Perfect, somebody should get right on that!

      2. Not necessarily. suppressing mosquito populations could have a very different impact than spraying crop fields. Or it could be neglible. I was wondering about the numbers.

    2. Any info on the extended impacts, or is it a non-issue on the impact of the total available insect biomass?

      Do you live in a library? A storage locker? Otherwise, I gotta wonder what the hell part of the world you live in where one species of moth is a significant/dominant portion of the biomass?

      1. Looks like you need to spend more time in a library improving your reading comprehension. This isn’t just a case of a single species. It can be applied to multiple pest species including non-crop affecting ones. My question was what is the quantifiable impact, if any.

        Try again.

    3. Its possible, I suppose, that the relative handful of targeted insects could be essential to some other part of the foodchain.

      Kinda like how a single plant (milkweed) is essential to Monarch butterflies.

      Where I live, eliminating packrats would put a serious hurt on a fair number of other species. Not to the point of extinction, but they are a major food source for snakes, and likely coyotes, bobcats, etc.

      Which, of course, is exactly why I poison the fuck out of the packrats around my house.

  11. Can this be made to work for hippies?

    1. That’s not how hippies propigate. They’re more like a communicable mental illness.

      1. But punching them one at a time is not scalable.

        Maybe a variety of patchouli that would induce them to punch themselves?

        1. They’re only vulnerable to soap and water.

          1. And work.

  12. Just change the certification requirements to specify that tiny bits of dead bug don’t count. Duh.

    But they know that already don’t they. Apparently Organic cert requirements are written on a stone tablet handed down by Gaia. Modifications are sacreligious.

  13. Holy shit. I remember in the very early 90s when I first noticed these weird striped mosquitoes in Charlottesville, VA. We were doing some work on a house that we were renovating for sale and I got bitten by one and was amazed at how big the bite swelled up before shrinking back down into a normal-sized mosquito bite. I wondered at the time where it had come from and why I’d never gotten a bite like that before.

    Of course, I still blame GMO Biotech Megapharma.

    1. Did you develop heat vision, the ability to fly around, or a sudden thirst to drink blood and brood?

      1. Yes. Doesn’t everyone?

  14. I can’t see the alt-text, but it’s only funny if it reads:

    “bzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzz”

  15. The larval moths will die on plants, including crops such as broccoli and cabbage. In its assessment, the USDA failed to recognize that if farms near the field trial sites happen to be certified organic or non-GE, their certification could be lost if these larval stage GE moths were present because genetic engineering, even for pest control, is prohibited.

    OK, no problem.

    One metric fuckton of pesticides coming up!

  16. “[…]kills of larva[…]”

    Spell-check once again makes sure the wrong word is spelled correctly.

  17. No, no, no. You all just don’t understand. We shouldn’t be eating Brassica oleracea in North America. We should be foraging for native greens instead and perhaps be able to grow maize, beans, tomatoes and perhaps squash. It’s all about eating local. Food miles. Never forget food miles.

    1. I’m perfectly OK with that. All of those foods make me gag.

  18. Regardless of the pro-anti GE argument I think there’s a property rights aspect to this that RB is ignoring.
    For example, if I raise grass fed cattle and for some reason or another my neighbor is doping my cattle with corn, my product has been negatively tampered with sans consent.
    Can I still label my fare as grass fed? I think not.
    Therefore, property rights have been violated and justice must be done either by compensation or cessation.

    1. The problem with your analysis is that
      1) nobody is dumping moths on the organic farmers property.

      2) the farmers are refusing to protect their property rights against trespass by unwanted pests. If the new moths were penetrating nets that their unaugmented brethren didn’t, then that analysis might have some bearing.

    2. If your cattle eat a few grains of corn, who cares? All you need to do is set a reasonable tolerance, like 5% corn, and be done with it.

      The problem is the anti-GMO freaktards want to set a standatd of 0% tolerance for any GE content, and then use that self-created standard to restrict other people’s right to us GE products anywhere whether they could conceivable drift into their fields.

      Your property rights havn’t been damaged if you define a standard that allows a small percentage of “contamination” from natural pollen drift. If you define the standard as 0% then then that’s your own fucking problem.

      1. Your property rights haven’t been damaged at all if the “contaminants” come on your property via natural processes.

        Nobody thinks your property rights are violated if a tornado drops your neighbor’s double-wide on your property. Contrast with your neighbor driving his double-wide onto your property and dumping it there.

        You don’t need to have standards that set some percentage of allowable contamination. You just need standards that say you can’t contaminate your own crops, or allow others to do the same.

        1. Pollutants might blow naturally from my smoke stack and bathe your crops in soot. The contaminants got there “naturally”. The problem here isn’t a question of liability, a discussion of liability assumes that some harm was done. You could not correctly call these larva “contaminates” by any reasonable standard. And that’s the point where we should hang out hat while addressing these envrionazis.

          1. The purported harm is that the 0% tolerance for GMOs allowed in “organic” is violated.
            But it’s far easier to simply change the standard to simply state that GE insects that fly in don’t count, than it is to try to ban everyone else from using GMOs.
            Naturally, however, the anti-GMO fanatics perfer option B. Why be reasonable when you can you your own unreasonability as an argument for making even crazier demands?

    3. So, by a lot of this logic, if I shoot my rifle straight up into the air, the wind blows it 50ft downrange and directly thru my neighbors roof, no-harm/no-foul? Damn bullet should have landed on my property ‘cept for those dastardly natural processes right?
      What if I’m burning the brush in my backyard and the sparks are blown onto my neighbors roof by the (natural) wind? Am I not liable?
      I don’t agree with the anti-GM folks about much but if that’s what they want to do they have the right to set whatever standard they want for their property and their products.
      And if I’m Dr. Monroe, I think I’m the one that needs to put up the nets to keep my critters on the island, not the other way around.
      Is a moth really a pollutant? I don’t think so, maybe that’s what needs to be worked out?

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  20. BTW, could this be done with deer?

  21. I currently work in the deli of a grocery chain which offers many organic options. And the more I read about the inefficiencies of organic farming, the less comfortable I am about selling it. Obviously if someone wants it I will givr it to them but I’m not comfortable “selling” it.

    That said, these people have a valid claim to loss of organic certification. The USDA has a bunch of arbitrary requirements, one of them typically being organic stuff cant come into contact with “non organic” stuff. Its still pretty foolish to build a business model relying on something as arbitrary as the USDA but thats the world we live in.

    1. It’s the “organic” crowd itself that demanded that “organic” stuff have a zero-tolerance policy toward GMO content.
      So if they end up losing Organic cert cbecause of their own dumb standards, well, I think the phrase is “hoisted by their own petard”.

      1. Id be curious to see how organic standards came about in the first place before rushing to judgement. If I had to guess, id say different brands were fighting over organic labeling not unlike the hellmans mayo issue and the usda “came to the rescue” with what organic means. Per the article, it sounds like environmentalist groups made the complaint about the moths, not the farms. For all I know, the farms just want to sell overpriced produce that make people feel better.

    2. “[…]That said, these people have a valid claim to loss of organic certification.[…]”

      Could be, but the claim should be against the cert authority.
      They are claiming that if a GE lava is found landing on a leaf of lettuce, they lose the cert? Well, what happens if a moth flies over and poops on the leaf they named “Claude”? (I presume every leaf is named, right?).
      Ever read the FDA regs for, say peanut butter?
      “The FDA booklet states that it’s economically infeasible to cultivate, reap and process raw food items without such foods being contaminated some unavoidable or naturally occurring defects. Through FDA, the government has placed limits for naturally occurring impurities that are unaesthetic but not likely hazardous to public health.”
      http://www.peanutallergy.com/a…..nut-butter
      You’ll find limits of XPPM for rodent waste, etc. Sorry, organic priests, you gotta live in the real world.

      1. I totally agree, the usda is the cause of this because it places arbitrary and ridiculous requirements on things. Im reminded of the cabbies who are forced to pay hundreds of thousands a year because the government wont let them ply their trade without one.

  22. This is serious problem which every farmer face. Government need to provide necessary pest control services which can help them to get rid of unwanted pest which are affecting crop badly. Best Exterminator NYC need to be appointed . Professional expert can through necessary process of inspection where crop can be easily growned without pest.

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