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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Butterflies and Bt corn
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Butterflies and Bt corn. Allowing Science to Guide Decisions.
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Researchers reach conclusions

Swallowtail study
In the summer of 2000, University of Illinois researchers reported a study showing the absence of toxicity of Bt corn pollen to black swallowtails under field conditions (Wraight et al., 2000). Unlike the note in Nature, this study considered mortality factors under field conditions where environmental factors (sun, wind and rain) may influence pollen dispersal and deposition, and consumption by larvae given free choice of feeding location. In laboratory assays – with the exception of Bt corn event 176 – researchers did not see mortality even at Bt pollen doses fivefold higher than those typically found in the field.

Monarch studies
Twenty-nine scientists in the United States and Canada conducted laboratory and field studies in 1999 and 2000 to evaluate in detail any impact by biotech corn pollen on monarch butterflies. Weed scientists, corn researchers, entomologists and other specialists shared and compared data, and pooled expertise from different fields of science to make a complete assessment of the potential impact of Bt corn pollen on monarch butterflies. Such widespread cooperation was important in developing the complete picture quickly.

Not only were data shared during the studies, the scientists also grouped their data when it came time to write the scientific journal articles that would subject the research to rigorous scientific review. This allowed the research that answered all of the basic questions to be reviewed at the same time and published together, rather than stringing out the reports over a period of months and in a number of journals. This would have made it harder to put the complete picture together, especially for the public.

On October 9, 2001, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published six comprehensive studies in an issue that featured this research.

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Hundreds of butterflies flying over treetops

Twenty-nine scientists in the United States and Canada conducted laboratory and field studies in 1999 and 2000 to evaluate in detail any impact by biotech corn pollen on monarch butterflies.

 

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Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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