Scientists responded quickly to the alleged threat
to monarchs. In the summer of 1999, in the midst of the media tempest,
public and private researchers began studies to explore whether
Bt corn pollen truly affects monarchs in their natural habitat.
The first of these results were presented at a Monarch Butterfly
Research Workshop in Chicago in November 1999, attended by researchers
and concerned groups including environmental organizations, industry
and regulators. Although the data were preliminary and, in many
cases, not yet fully analyzed, the results presented provided evidence
that the monarch was not likely to be harmed by pollen from
Repeatedly, researchers urged that any decisions made about Bt
corn be based on studies that had undergone rigorous peer review
to ensure that the data and the conclusions were of the highest
scientific validity, rather than formulating regulations as a reaction
to media coverage.
Nine meetings, open to the public, were held between 1999 and 2001,
where Bt corn/monarch data were discussed. One of these meetings
was a workshop coordinated by the Agricultural Research Service
held in Kansas City, Mo., in February 2000. About 40 scientists
from universities, government, industry and the environmental community
participated. They established research priorities needed to firmly
answer whether Bt corn pollen presented a significant risk
Projects were selected and funded through a grant process, overseen
by a steering committee with diverse interests, including those
with concerns about the application of biotechnology to agriculture.
More than $200,000 in grant funding was provided by the Agricultural
Research Service and the industry group the Agricultural Biotechnology
Stewardship Technical Committee. Environment Canada, with the approval
of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, provided funding for similar
research in Ontario.
The studies focused on exploring what effect, if any, Bt
corn pollen had on monarchs in fields under typical growing conditions.