GENET archive


Europabio reaction to monarch butterfly study

Dear all,
Below is Europabio's reaction to the Iowa University research on the risks of Bt maize for monarch butterfly larvae.  (No doubt, you will be unsurprised by their action!)

Press Release                                               For immediate
Genetically modified maize does not pose risk to the monarch butterfly
Brussels, August 22nd, 2000.  More than 20 studies by widely recognized,
inde-    pendent scientists confirm that pollen from genetically modified
maize does not pose a significant risk to the monarch butterfly.  To
EuropaBio, the European Association of Bioindustries, this unanimity is
more important than the new study by John Obrycki and Laura  Hansen of Iowa
State University (USA),  published yesterday online in the journal
Oecologia and focusing on one small area of a complex topic.

The Obrycki study does not reflect field reality and from that perspective
does not seem to add much to a study by Dr. Losey of Cornell University
(New York), published in May last year. Dr. Losey's study was the result of
a single laboratory experiment, showing that larvae of the monarch
butterfly grew  more slowly and suffered a higher mortality rate when being
fed milkweed leaves artificially coated with pollen from insect pest
tolerant GM maize.

Dr. Obrycki's team had put potted milkweed plants in proximity of GM maize
fields, where pollen was allowed to land on the leaves. Leaf tissue samples
were then given as the sole food source to monarch larvae. One variety of
GM maize apparently caused 20 per cent mortality in young monarch larvae
within 48 hours. However, this situation is very different from that
prevalent in a natural environment, as experienced by most monarch larvae,
who feed on milkweed plants mostly in June whereas the peak time of maize
pollen shed is from mid-July to August.

Whereas in 1999 the total acreage planted with GM maize increased by 40 per
cent, the monarch butterfly population in the USA flourished and grew by 30
per cent (source:

Nevertheless, industry continues to actively support research on the impact
of GM-pollen on the monarch, together with the authorities and
representatives of consumer and environmental organisations.

EuropaBio reiterates that genetically enhanced insect pest tolerant maize
products are proven safe for humans, animals and for non-target insects and
have only been authorized after years of thorough scientific review. In the
mean time, the introduction of insect protected maize has allowed
North-American farmers to increase their yields between 5 and 20 per cent
and to reduce the use of pesticides.

EuropaBio represents 40  corporate members operating world wide and 13
national biotechnology associations (totalling around 700 SMEs) involved in
research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of
biotechnology products.
EuropaBio, the voice of European bioindustries, aims to be a promoting
force for biotechnology and to present its proposals to industry,
politicians, regulators, NGOs, and the public at large.

For further information please contact:
Paul MUYS, Communications Manager
EuropaBio, ph. + 32 2 739 11 74, fax: +32 739 11 80 or e-mail:

Gill Lacroix
Biotechnology Coordinator
Friends of the Earth Europe
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.  We have guided missiles and misguided men".  Martin Luther King Jr.