Butterflies would not encounter GM corn in the wild, says Biotech industry

Most Monarch butterfly larvae would never encounter significant amounts of corn pollen in a natural setting, the US biotech industry has said in response to a letter to Nature which claimed that corn pollen containing crop-protection proteins derived from the soil bacterium Bt can kill the butterfly's larvae.

L.Val Giddings, the Vice President of the Food & Agriculture Division of The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), wrote in a statement that declining Monarch butterfly populations have been a concern for decades. But, he said, the potential for any negative impact from Bt corn is negligible even if the results reported in Nature are validated.

Giddings went on to say that Monarch migration and egg laying patterns ensure that the primary period of larval feeding and growth throughout most of the butterfly’s range takes place before any Bt corn produces pollen. Ongoing monitoring of Bt cornfields by companies since their introduction further shows that very little pollen lands on adjacent milkweed leaves, claimed Giddings.

Giddings added that the biotech industry is “fully committed to exploring the significance of the report.” He claimed that monitoring by companies of Bt corn fields shows that insect biodiversity and population densities in Bt corn fields is significantly higher than in fields treated with chemical pesticide sprays.

“Bt corn thus helps enhance beneficial insect populations that would otherwise be threatened by the use of pesticidal sprays. This further leads to significant improvements to water quality and environmental conservation for insect eating birds, small mammals and other life,” said Giddings.

According to Giddings, reports of the potential for effects from Bt corn hybrids on Monarch butterflies or other lepidoptera have been reported in the scientific literature and regulatory review documents since 1986. In addition, he claimed that EPA and USDA data on the potential for impacts on non target species from Bt pollen indicates that the impacts from such pollen were likely to be negligible.

“It is widely recognized that the principal threat facing the Monarch butterfly relates to loss of vital winter habitat in southern California and the highlands of central Mexico,” Giddings concluded.

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