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2-Plants: Monsanto's reply on Monarch butterfly study

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TITLE:  Monsanto statement on Bt corn: Environmental safety and a
        recent report on the Monarch butterfly
SOURCE: press release,
DATE:   May 20, 1999

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ST. LOUIS -- "Bt corn" refers to corn that has been enhanced
through plant biotechnology with a trait that protects it from
damage against specific insect pests. Because of a protective
protein that the corn produces, it is not damaged by insects like
the European corn borer, which can have devastating and
irreversible effects on corn crops. Prior to the introduction of
Bt corn, farmers typically controlled insect pests with
conventional insecticides that get rid of both those damaging
insects, as well as the beneficial and desirable insects (e.g.,
those that help control other pests that harm plants or spread
plant diseases) present in the field. An important advantage of
Bt corn is that these sprays are either reduced or eliminated; as
a result, the effects on beneficial and other non-target insects
also are dramatically reduced or eliminated. By reducing the use
of broad-spectrum insecticides, Bt corn reduces the potential to
harm non-target and beneficial species, and it reduces the
impacts of agricultural inputs on the environment in general.

Nature Article

The May 20 issue of the journal Nature reports on a laboratory
study conducted by Cornell University researchers that asserts a
negative impact of milkweed dusted with pollen from Bt corn on
the growth and survival of the non-target Monarch butterfly.

We take very seriously research on Monarch butterflies and other
non-target species, as well as beneficial insects that help
control pests in fields. Considered in total, research conducted
in the field supports the safety of Bt crops for beneficial and
other non-target insects. The laboratory study in Nature provides
interesting information, but reflects a situation very different
than that actually prevalent in the natural environment.

Monarch larvae feed almost exclusively on milkweed. The natural
habitat for milkweed is prairies, fields and roadsides, not the
middle of full grown and pollinating corn fields. In real life
situations, the exposure of milkweed to corn pollen is very low
because only a very small portion of milkweed grows in close
enough proximity to corn fields for exposure to corn pollen. This
information supports the conclusion of a very low likelihood of
effect of Bt pollen on non-target insects like the Monarch
butterfly in their natural habitats.

The principal author of this laboratory study has cautioned
against drawing conclusions until more research and data have
been collected and studied. Monsanto is very supportive of
initiatives that lead to better understanding of insect-protected
crops and non-target and beneficial insects. To that end, we are
participating in an industry effort to support additional field
research to reaffirm the lack of impact of Bt crops for these
insects in their natural environment. We will continue to
cooperate with researchers and the industry to support studies
aimed toward better understanding of insect- protected crops.

Additional editors' reference notes:
- Over 40% of all chemical insecticides used in the United States
  are used on cotton plants. Use of Bt insect-protected cotton
  has eliminated the use of nearly 1 million gallons of broad
  spectrum chemical insecticides since it was first commercially
  grown in 1996. (1996: 250,000+ gallons, 1997: 300,000 gallons,
  1998: 300,000+ gallons)
- According to a University of Alabama study the adoption of Bt
  cotton has reduced chemical insecticide use in their state to
  the lowest levels in over 40 years since the introduction of
  these chemical insecticides.
- In 1998 use of Bt insect-protected corn reduced or eliminated
  the use of broad spectrum chemical insecticides on some 15
  million acres of U.S. farmland.
- Farmers growing Bt insect-protected potatoes on nearly 40,000
  acres have reduced their chemical insecticides use by over 40%.


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