GENET archive


2-Plants: Action alert: MonsantoŐs latest GE corn

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

TITLE:  Action Alert: Monsanto's Latest GE Corn
SOURCE: Union of Concerned Scientists, USA
        sent by P A N U P S, Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
DATE:   February 28, 2000

-------------------- archive: --------------------

Action Alert: Monsanto's Latest GE Corn

In August 1999, Monsanto petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) to approve a new variety of corn genetically engineered 
to kill corn rootworms, important pests in the U.S. Corn Belt. The 
corn has been engineered to produce a specific toxin originally 
derived from a soil microorganism, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt 
corn varieties that have been grown commercially in the United States 
since 1996 target European corn borers, whose adult stage is a moth. 
Monsanto's new variety of Bt corn is the first to target corn 
rootworms, whose adult stage is a beetle. The Union of Concerned 
Scientists (UCS) calls on EPA to deny approval of Monsanto's new corn 
variety because of inadequate testing for environmental impacts and 
lack of a credible resistance-management strategy.

EPA is reviewing company data on the new crop and is expected to make 
a decision later this year whether or not to allow the Bt-corn seeds 
on the market. The public comment period on the application ends 
March 20. Write to EPA and urge the Agency to deny Monsanto's 

Corn rootworms have become major pests in some parts of the Corn Belt-
-costing growers hundreds of millions of dollars each year in reduced 
yields and insecticide use. For the last few decades, many farmers 
have kept corn rootworms under control by using either insecticides 
or rotating corn and soybeans. The two-crop rotation held the 
rootworms in check because the adults laid eggs in corn fields and 
then died off when that field was rotated to soybeans. Recently, 
however, some of the pests have adapted to the two-crop rotation by 
laying their eggs in soybean fields so the worms have a ready food 
source the next summer when the field is rotated to corn.

Past control of corn rootworms by alternating corn and soybeans is a 
testament to the power of crop rotation to suppress pests, although 
sustainable farmers generally recommend three-to-six-year rotations 
as a more effective method. Had multiple-crop rotations rather than 
continuous corn or two-crop rotations been the norm the past few 
decades, corn rootworms would in all likelihood not be the problem 
they are today.

Action: Write EPA and tell them not to approve commercialization of 
Bt corn targeted at rootworms because:

1. Monsanto has submitted only an outline of a resistance-management 
strategy. Because rootworms present different problems than corn 
borers, the company will need to do considerably more research before 
it can devise a comprehensive plan to delay the evolution of 
resistance to Bt in corn rootworms.

2. Monsanto has not submitted data needed to conduct a rigorous 
ecological risk assessment. For example, the company submission does 
not contain sufficient data to evaluate potential impacts of Bt-toxin-
containing root exudates on soil beetles.

3. The Agency itself does not yet have in place a strong program to 
ensure that all potential environmental impacts of Bt crops are fully 
evaluated. Public confidence in EPA's ability to protect against the 
risks of engineered crops was badly shaken last summer when the 
Agency failed to even note the possible effects of Bt-corn pollen on 
monarch butterflies. Before it approves any more Bt crops, the Agency 
must establish a scientifically credible framework for ecological 
risk assessment. 

Send comments before March 20 to:

Public Information and Records Integrity Branch (PIRIB)
Information resources and Services Division (7502C)
Office of Pesticide Programs/EPA, 401 M St., SW, Washington, DC


Include the docket control number OPP-30487 on all correspondence.

Union of Concerned Scientists, 1616 P St., NW, Suite 310,
Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 332-0900; fax (202) 332-0905;

For further information:

- Gray, M.E. "Prescriptive Use of Transgenic Hybrids for Corn 
  Rootworms: An Ominous Cloud on the Horizon?" Crop Protection 
  Technology Conference, January 5-6, 2000, sponsored by University
  of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

- Institute for Agricultural Trade and Policy, Science and 
  Environmental Health Network, and Consumer Policy Institute
  Consumers Union, "Comments Submitted to Docket Number OPP-50864:
  Application for an Experimental Use Permit for Cry3Bb Transgenic
  Corn," January 7, 2000.

- Saxena, D. et al., "Insecticidal toxin in root exudates from Bt 
  corn," Nature 402:480, 1999.

sent by
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991


|                   GENET                     |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
|                                             |
|             Hartmut MEYER (Mr)              |
|          Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51            |
|            D - 37083 Goettingen             |
|                 Germany                     |
|                                             |
| phone: +49-551-7700027                      |
| fax:   +49-551-7701672                      |
| email:                    |