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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Butterflies, Bees and Bt Maize: Lessons Learned from the Monarch Butterfly

Author
item Hellmich, Richard

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 31, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Maize has been genetically modified to express an insecticidal protein derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt provides yield protection from pest species such as the European corn borer and some protection from other Lepidopteran (moth and butterfly) pests. Many maize growers, beekeepers and scientists have welcomed these hybrids because they yoffer an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional insecticides. Two years ago a preliminary laboratory study suggested the possibility that pollen from Bt maize hybrids might be hazardous to the larvae of the monarch butterfly. Mainstream media largely treated this preliminary information as if the question of potential impact on monarch populations by Bt maize pollen had already been answered, long before the potential could be adequately addressed by researchers. Such media coverage has heightened public awareness and increased scrutiny of transgenic plants in terms of potential environmental impact, but has also sometimes acted to generate unfounded fears as well as reasonable concern. The risks, if any, that Bt maize poses to non-target insects, such as the monarch butterfly, must be reasonably balanced with the benefits of Bt maize and the damage caused to non-target insects by pesticides. High-quality research is necessary so that decisions can be based on sound science. More than two years has passed since Bt maize and monarch butterfly emerged as an important issue. Research conducted by a consortium of scientists addressing this issue will be summarized. Lessons in risk assessment and other issues learned from the monarch butterfly and Bt maize experience will be related to honey bees and transgenic plants.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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