GENET archive


2-Plants: Bt-corn no risk to Monarch butterfly says Canadian study

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  New study shows biotechnology not harming Monarch         butterfly
SOURCE: University of Guelph, Canada, press release
        sent by AGNET, Canada
DATE:   January 4, 1999

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New study shows biotechnology not harming Monarch butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is alive and well, despite exaggerated and
misleading reports that it is threatened by biotechnology, new
research by a University of Guelph professor reveals. Prof. Mark
Sears, chair of the Department of Environmental Biology and the
Canadian Corn Pest Coalition, conducted field research on pollen
from Bt corn containing Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally
occurring soil-borne bacterium which selectively targets specific
groups of insects.

Preliminary findings show that the pollen is found in too-low
doses on most milkweed plants to hurt Monarch butterfly larvae.
In fact, researchers found that pollen from milkweed leaves from
Bt corn had no greater effect on Monarch larvae than non-Bt
pollen. "Bt-corn has always been shown to be harmless to both
humans and animals, and we now know it isnít a major threat to
the Monarch butterfly," Sears said.

An earlier U.S. study claimed pollen from Bt-corn damaged Monarch
butterfly larvae. The study sparked a media frenzy and public
concern about genetically modified foods. The U.S. study was
completed in a lab, and the dosage of pollen used was not
reported, Sears said. "The actual threat to the Monarch butterfly
can only be determined by assessing the dosage that affects the
larvae and their degree of exposure to Bt-corn pollen in the
field," he said. "Outside of corn fields, you probably wouldnít
find concentrated dosages of pollen because wind and rain removes
it from the surface of the milkweed leaves."

Sears is leading a two-year project to determine the ecological
impacts of Bt-corn pollen on selected non-target butterfly
species, including the Monarch. His study focuses on Bt pollen
and how far it travels. He examined milkweed stands in and
adjoining corn fields, at their edges, then at distances of five,
10, 25, 50 and 100 metres away.

He is being assisted by U of G research associate Diane Stanley
Horn and research technician Heather Mattila, along with seed
industry representatives and corn growers. His research is
sponsored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment


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