GenEngineered Corn Kills Butterflies : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Wednesday May 19, 1999 4:48 p.m. EDT

Study: Genetically Engineered Corn Harms Butterflies Scientists have discovered a disturbing unintended consequence of genetic engineering: Pollen from a widely planted, laboratory-designed strain of corn can kill monarch butterflies.

Monarch caterpillars eating milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from the altered corn plants ate less, grew more slowly and died more quickly. After four days, 44 percent of them had died vs. none of the caterpillars that didn't feed on the pollen.

Monarchs are not an endangered species. But environmentalists fear that if the genetically engineered corn is killing the orange-and-black butterflies, it may be killing other insects and doing other unseen damage to the food chain.

The strain is called Bt corn and is manufactured by agricultural giants Novartis AG, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Monsanto Co. The corn is genetically engineered to produce a natural pesticide that kills the corn-destroying European corn borer.

It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and hit the market in 1996. It accounted for more than 25 percent of the 80 million acres of corn planted in the United States in 1998.

Bt corn has been touted by the industry as a way to fight a major pest without using chemicals.

The study was led by Cornell University entomologist John Losey and published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

``It's very disturbing,'' said Jeremy Rifkin, whose Washington-based Foundation on Economic Trends is pushing for a moratorium on genetically engineered crops until their environment effects can be more thoroughly studied. ``It's a smoking gun. This now is a red flag everyone is going to have to look at.''

Losey, however, said that while he thinks the crop's harm to other insects deserves more research, studies have shown that the corn does not harm humans or other mammals. He added: ``I still think the proven benefits of Bt corn outweigh the potential risks.''

Monsanto spokesman Randy Krotz said the finding is not very important. Many monarch butterflies would not be exposed to the toxic pollen, he said, since most milkweed does not grow near corn fields.

And Val Giddings, vice president for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said: ``Whatever the threat to monarch butterflies that is posed by Bt corn pollen, we know it's less than the threat of drifting pesticide sprays.''

Industry officials said they were not surprised by the finding, because the larvae of monarch butterflies are similar to the corn borer. They also called the study sloppy because the researchers didn't precisely measure the amount of pollen ladled onto the milkweed leaves.

For 20 years, biotech laboratories have been altering the genetics of vegetables to make them taste better or resistant to pests, raising fears among environmentalists of ``Frankenstein foods.''

This is not the first time scientists found possible unintended consequences of genetic engineering.

A Swiss study last year showed an indirect effect of Bt corn on the food chain: Insects called lacewings died more quickly if they fed on corn borers reared on Bt corn.

A University of Chicago study published in September found that a weed altered by scientists to resist an herbicide developed a far greater ability to pollinate other plants and pass on its traits. The findings raised fears that genetic engineering could lead to the rise of ``superweeds'' impervious to weedkillers.

In Scotland, a toxicologist who added insect-resistant genes and proteins to potatoes and fed them to rats reported that the animals suffered damaged immune systems, growth problems and shrunken brains. But his findings were sharply disputed by other scientists.

By DAVID KINNEY, Associated Press Writer

-- Lee (, May 19, 1999


Lee, there is a great deal of information about genetically-modified (Brit term) foods in the Electronic Telegraph. You have to subscribe but it's fairly painless and I have never received any solicitations because of it. Don't use the search blank on each page, click on the search button at the top (or bottom) of a page. Then you can define your parameters. It's a very good search engine. The other one (box on each page) is, I believe, a general UK search engine, probably also of use to you.

I spoke to my father in Nottinghamshire around 5 PM EST and he told me about the monarch butterflies, said the story was all over the news.

I think this should get you to the right place. Once you find a pertinent article, there'll be a number of links not only to related sites, but also to past ET articles on the subject.

-- Old Git (, May 19, 1999.

Major bummer. Pioneer (among others) produces a major amount of seed corn here on Kaua'i. Hawai'i has lost a lot of species over the past few years (though not to genetic engineering). Thanks for the post.

-- Mad Monk (, May 19, 1999.

National public radio also did a story on this in today's "All Things Considered." I'll try and post a link to it tomorrow.

In the second part of the NPR story, the reporter talked about the larger issue of genetically enginereed seeds, why countries such as India are resisting those seeds, and the claims by the big seed/chemical companies that poor third world farmers will be better off buying their hi-tech seeds than saving seeds or getting them free from non-profit groups.

The butterfly is a symbol of resurection in almost every culture. It seems fitting that the evil perpetuated by scientists and business people who are movitivated by the desire to make a buck, be first to market, or climb the career ladder are now going to destroy a universal symbol of life itself.


-- Alexi (, May 19, 1999.

Pesticide sprays are pretty hard on other insects too. I am still on the fence about this - though an awful lot of plants produce various kinds of insect toxins. For that matter, quite a few produce mammal toxins - poison ivy, sumac, jimson weed and poison oak come to mind pretty quickly. Also queen annes lace, foxglove, nightshade, aminita mushrooms, toadstools - list gets long in a hurry.

-- Paul Davis (, May 19, 1999.

Corn Threatens Monarch Butterfly nger.html

My thanks go out to the New York Times for getting a science reporter on this story overnight. The story has a good picture with the caption "Monarch caterpillars eating a milkweed leaf, that was dusted with pollen from corn that has been genetically altered to kill pests. A study says the pollen has been found to kill the butterflies, which breed in the corn belt. Kent


May 20, 1999

Pollen From Genetically Altered Corn Threatens Monarch Butterfly, Study Finds


ll around the country, farmers are about to finish sowing millions of acres of a genetically altered form of corn that protects itself from pests by producing a toxin in its tissues. But researchers report on Thursday that this increasingly popular transgenic plant, thought to be harmless to nonpest insects, produces a wind-borne pollen that can kill monarch butterflies -- a species that claims the corn belt as the heart of its breeding range.

Researchers said that the laboratory study, conducted by a team from Cornell University, provides the first evidence that pollen from a transgenic plant can be harmful to nonpest species. As such, the study is likely to become part of the growing debate about whether genetically engineered crops may have unforeseen effects on the environment.

Transgenic crops have proven tremendously popular with American farmers in recent years. This season the new pest-resistant corn, introduced by seed companies just three years ago, is being planted on an estimated 10 million to 20 million acres out of an 80-million-acre corn crop nationwide. Known as Bt corn, it carries a gene derived from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that produces the Bt toxin, killing corn borer pests that try to eat the plant.

The researchers fed monarch caterpillars leaves of milkweed, their only food, which had been dusted with Bt corn pollen, regular corn pollen or no pollen. Half of those fed Bt corn pollen died within four days, while all those fed regular corn pollen or no pollen survived. The study, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, was written by Dr. John E. Losey, an entomologist, Dr. Linda S. Rayor, a behavioral ecologist, and Maureen E. Carter, a biologist.

The Bt toxin itself is already known to be lethal to many butterflies and moths. Researchers said this suggests that butterfly or moth species other than the monarch could be affected by the transgenic plant, particularly those that live on plants like milkweeds that are often found in and around corn fields and could be dusted by Bt corn pollen. But researchers note that the effect of Bt corn pollen on populations of wild insects is unknown.

Academic researchers praised the study as a first step toward understanding a previously unsuspected risk.

"Nobody had considered this before," said Dr. Fred Gould, insect ecologist at North Carolina State University. "Should we be concerned? Yes."

Dr. John Obrycki, an entomologist at Iowa State University, called the new study "solid" and said: "You now have a novel means of distributing Bt toxins in the environment. This is a technology that's being promoted and we haven't really considered all the consequences."

Representatives from Novartis Agribusiness Biotechnology, Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., the top sellers of Bt corn, challenged the significance of the findings for monarch caterpillars, also known as larvae, outside the laboratory. Researchers estimate that Bt corn is a product worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Taking issue with the methods and conclusions of the study, Rich Lotstein, vice president of public affairs for Novartis Agribusiness Biotechnology, said, "Even if Dr. Losey's results are real, which they could be, the exposure is still minimal, and the impact is extremely small, if any."

Researchers, including the authors, said it is still unknown how much of an impact Bt corn pollen is having on wild monarch populations.

"I would be very surprised if there are no monarch larvae being killed," Losey said. But he added, how many are being killed, "that's the big question."

Researchers said they do know from a study published last year that it is the corn belt, which includes such states as Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, that produces about half of the monarchs that migrate each year to Mexico.

And across that geographic expanse, said Dr. Karen Oberhauser, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, there was certainly potential for corn pollen and monarch caterpillars to cross paths. "There are a lot of monarch larvae around in July and August and that's when pollen is being shed," she said. "The timing is exactly wrong."

How much milkweed is close enough to corn fields to be at risk of receiving a dusting of pollen is unknown. But as Dr. Marlin Rice, entomologist at Iowa State University, put it, in many heavily farmed states, "if you're a monarch, odds are you're going to be close to a cornfield."

Monarchs are not considered endangered, but Dr. Lincoln Brower, a monarch biologist at Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va., said the butterfly faces a growing number of pressures. The No. 1 threat, he said, is still logging in the butterfly's winter resting grounds in Mexico. Other threats include roadside mowing and the use of herbicides on milkweeds.

Whatever level of threat Bt corn pollen turns out to pose, it is almost certainly less damaging to monarchs and insect diversity in general than the spraying of insecticides. But Obrycki said that in many areas of the country, farmers do not typically spray for corn borer.

Still others viewed the new study as a broader sign of the danger of transgenic crops and the need for tighter regulation.

Dr. Margaret Mellon, director of the agriculture and biotechnology program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: "Why is it that this study was not done before the approval of Bt corn? This is 20 million acres of Bt corn too late. This should serve as a warning that there are more unpleasant surprises ahead."

Dr. Phillip O. Hutton, chief of the microbial pesticides branch at the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates the commercial availability of Bt corn, declined to comment on the new study, saying the paper had not yet gone through the agency's scientific review. In addition to Bt corn, the EPA has approved Bt potatoes and Bt cotton, both of which are commercially available.

For the farmers, losses of monarch butterflies -- which neither help nor hurt crops -- may be hard to measure against the gains from this powerful new product. Previously, farmers had to scout their crops diligently for signs of the corn borer and spray at just the right time in an infestation to kill them. Now they can plant Bt corn and let the internally produced toxins do all the work.

"It's an amazing technology," said David Linn, a corn and soybean farmer in Correctionville, Iowa, who plants Bt and regular corn. "Does it kill more monarchs or not? That's so far down on the list of things we have to decide about."

-- Alexi (, May 20, 1999.

Monar chs and Biotechnology

Monarchs and Biotechnology-- NPR's John Nielsen reports on surprising new research suggesting that genetically altered crops might harm the fabled and threatened Monarch butterfly. Scientists have discovered that pollen from plants genetically altered to produce an insecticide, when fed to the butterflies, kills or injures them. The research is preliminary and was performed in laboratory-like conditions. But it has environmentalists worried. (5:00)

Crank up your real audio player and listen to the story.


-- Alexi. (, May 20, 1999.

Drug Resistance in Food Chain

The Washington Post picked up the story too ""It's sort of the Bambi of the insect world," said Marlin Rice, a professor of entomology at Iowa State University in Ames." But this piece was joined with a story about drug-resistant microbes, showing that the effect of untimely human meddling is affecting our health now, not just the health of butterflies.

Drug Resistance in Food Chain Drug Resistance in Food Chain

By David Brown Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, May 20, 1999; Page A2

The use of antibiotic drugs in chickens and cattle appears to be a major engine driving the emergence of two kinds of drug-resistant diarrhea in human beings, according to reports published this week.

A study from Minnesota found that resistant strains of the microbe campylobacter began appearing in people soon after chicken farmers were permitted to use a new family of antibiotics in their flocks in 1995. Studies from the states of Washington and California link outbreaks of multidrug-resistant salmonella infection to unpasteurized milk and, indirectly, to antibiotic use in dairy cattle.

I'm not against the use of technology. But improper use truly endangers all of us.

Nicols fox tells in her well-researched book, "Spoiled : Why Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It", that contaminated and spoiled foods kill approximately 9,000 Americans each year. Most of these victoms are young children and older people, or those with immune deficiences, now about 25% of the population.




-- Alexi (, May 20, 1999.

People, people, people....

You're letting the media rile you up.

BT, Bacillus Thuringensis, has been available for ORGANIC gardening use for well over a decade. It is sold as "Dipel". It is a bacteria that specifically targets leaf-munching worms OF ALL KINDS -- yes, even the nasty big green tomato worm that will strip your tomato plants naked during the summer. The worms become infected with the bacteria, stop eating, and shrivel up into little black mummies.

MANY varieties of munching worms ARE ALREADY RESISTANT to BT; resistance was first reported after only 3 years of general availability of the stuff....even Monarch butterfly worms (according to a report heard last night on CNN)-- over 50% of the worms exposed to BT survive. This means that, in the natural order of things, some of those survivors will pass resistance on to their offspring....and, before you know it, the butterflies will be completely resistant to BT. In EXACTLY the same way that many diseases are now resistant to antibiotics.

Give nature a little credit, will ya?

Anita Evangelista

-- Anita Evangelista (, May 20, 1999.

Chemically treated food kills humans.

-- GeeGee (, May 20, 1999.

Anita says--

--In EXACTLY the same way that many diseases are now resistant to antibiotics. My God woman , think about your own statement!!! THIS is your argument!!!!!!

IF you really believe this, then tell me why we want to produce better, stronger borebugs in the first place.

I hope people like you aren't running the show post Y2K.

-- unspun@lright (, May 20, 1999.


I don't recall saying I wished to produce better "borebugs" (I'm sure you mean, "corn ear worms" in any case). I indicated that the insects will ADAPT to our measley attempts at genetic manipulation, in just exactly the same way that bacteria have. In just the same way that insects have ALREADY adapted to our best chemical attempts at killing them off, and become resistant to pesticides.

Too often, we're blinded by our small ideas of the adaptability of nature -- and doubly blinded by our fantasies of influence on it.

Hey, man -- you can't fool Mother Nature.

Anita Evangelista

-- Anita Evangelista (, May 20, 1999.

The way I see it, we shouldn't be speeding up the process of acquired resistance by short-sighted blanket application through genetic engineering, especially a pesticide like Bt which had the attribute of specificity. There is no guarantee that research and testing will keep up with the demand for new products to replace the ones that are no longer effective. At the very least, we should discriminate in the types of applications (e.g., food crops should have preference over yard maintenance).

-- Brooks (, May 20, 1999.

How does the saying go -- we have seen the enemy and he is us? Welcome to the world of indiscriminate chemical use. The lastest round of stupidity can be found at your local grocery or discount store - antibacterial soaps. Everything is antibacterial (sponges, cutting boards, dishsoap, liguidsoap). So short term the antibacterial agents let us be a little less fastedious in kithen and bath cleanups. Longterm, the it is resistant little buggers that survive and multiply creating colonies of 'super' bugs .

So in a few years, I predict there will be increasing reports about people becoming violently ill from home prepared foods. All thanks to the superbugs that the antibacterial soaps help establish.

I believe that there is no substitute for ordinary soap, friction, and plenty of water... (Soap and friction to loosen and water to wash away .)


-- john hebert (, May 20, 1999.

So a 50% kill rate of all of Mother Natures "Monarch butterflies", just doing what's natural for butterflies, is aceptable to you huh.

Well I suppose if we had just waited long enough the we would have overcome Thalamide babies too!!!!

And you probably meant "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!!"

You sure your real name isn't *Eve*?

-- unspun@lright (, May 20, 1999.

So tell me Herr Eveangleista, where does that put you on the concept of ethnic cleansing, or need I ask? Better Serbs through selective murder?

-- unspun@lright (, May 20, 1999.

From today's Electronic Telegraph. Please note the Telegraph is one of Britain's more conservative newspapers. Also please note that Britain has 1/4 population of US in an area about the size of the state of Oregon. Britain is a net importer of food and needs all the farming help it can get; food is more expensive in the UK than here. If GM foods were at all safe, there would be virtually no controversy.

(Subscription, see

Thursday 20 May 1999

Ministers 'manipulated GM debate', By Andrew Sparrow

[Hot links to some external sites - Leak reveals Government GM PR offensive [19 May '99] - Friends of the Earth; Text of leaked Cabinet memo dated 11 May 1999 [19 May '99] - Friends of the Earth; News releases: Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes - Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; there are more external links at hot links, end of article] A LEAKED Cabinet Office letter showing Government attempts to manipulate the public debate on genetically modified food was published yesterday.

It shows that ministers tried to get an "independent" scientist to appear on Radio 4's Today programme to defend GM farming. They also discussed how a report from the Chief Medical Officer should be "revised" to give a clearer message to the public. Friends of the Earth, which released the document, claimed that it proved Labour "wants to spin GM food down our throats whether we like it or not".

The letter, sent to Whitehall departments on May 11, describes what happened at a meeting of the Biotechnology Presentation Group attended by Jack Cunningham, Tessa Jowell, Jeff Rooker and Michael Meacher. The four ministers discussed the presentation of GM food in the media but what are particularly embarrassing are the revelations about the way they have tried to manipulate opinion.

It records that "the Government had not been able to identify an independent scientist to appear on the Today programme" to discuss a report criticising GM food but that another scientist had been able to give "a very effective interview". Looking to the future, ministers discussed an announcement that Dr Cunningham, the Cabinet Office "enforcer", was due to make on genetically modified food.

It would include publication of a paper from the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser on safety of the new crops. According to the leak, the ministers concluded: "The paper should be revised to make sure that it was intelligible to the lay reader and so that it contained clear recommendations. The revised draft should be cleared by a future meeting of the Presentation Group."

Ministers also agreed that they should "guard against the charge that the Government was seeking to influence the findings of the paper" but Friends of the Earth said that was difficult to square with their desire to "revise" it. In an attempt to maximise positive coverage, the group also agreed: "It was important that contact was made with the National Consumers' Council to seek their endorsement of the Government's approach."

Whitehall departments were also expected "to start working now to line up third parties to author articles in the media in the days before the announcement". Ministers also considered briefing notes that had been prepared to deal with scare stories about GM foods that might resurface.

Charles Secrett, Friends of the Earth's executive director, said the leak proved that the Government was not interested in "a genuine debate" about GM food safety. He said: "Ministers will rewrite advice from their most senior medical and scientific advisers so that the public gets the message that Jack Cunningham prefers."

One of the world's most beautiful butterflies is under threat from genetically modified maize, say scientists. In laboratory tests, pollen from the GM corn grown in the United States killed the monarch butterfly by making it vulnerable to infection.

The corn contains genes that produce a substance poisonous to a pest, the European corn borer. The GM plant's tissue destroys the pest, but is supposed to be harmless to helpful insects such as bees and ladybirds, and safe for human consumption.

The butterfly's caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which grows near the corn. In the tests, caterpillars fed milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from the GM corn grew slowly and almost half died.

In a report in the journal Nature, the team from Cornell University in New York said that the black and orange butterfly, found in the Mid-Western "corn belt" of the US, could be consuming the pollen and dying.

[Hot links to last 3 ET articles on subject; there are many more]

19 May 1999: GM food scars 'risk UK lead in science'

18 May 1999: Doctors call for GM food ban to ease public fears

29 April 1999: Blair rejects GM food ban as Hague warns of risk

-- Old Git (, May 20, 1999.

I can tell you that as an organic farmer, I am mightily opposed to Bt corn. Besides the very fact of genetic eng. which does not sit well with me, I do know that the widespread use of Bt in corn will cause resistance in a short while to Bt making it useless. Monsanto knows this. they are unconcerned however as they will just plan on bringing out another variety of corn or whatever. Meanwhile organic growers will have lost the use forever of Bt through no fault of their own.

Do we have to wait until they've brought out the terminator gene in seed and we discover that these plants are crossing with others leading to sterility in other plants as well? Don't say it can't happen. We are crazy to allow any of this.

-- anita (, May 20, 1999.


I'm sorry. I didn't recognise that you were a troll -- I thought you were just someone who didn't understand biology. I was (foolishly) trying to help.

You said:

"So a 50% kill rate of all of Mother Natures "Monarch butterflies", just doing what's natural for butterflies, is aceptable to you huh. Well I suppose if we had just waited long enough the we would have overcome Thalamide babies too!!!!"

If you had actually read the environmentalist piece at the early part of the thread, you would have seen that it wasn't "50% of Monarch Butterflies killed" -- the only concern was of a small number of worms (which later turn into Monarch butterflies) which eat pollen from BT-corn off of nearby plants of other varieties. Corn pollen is available for only brief periods during the growing season - it's when the corn is "tasseling", quite a bit before there are any "ears" growing. This brief time, maybe a couple to three weeks, is when the only threat to Monarchs (or other munching worms) appears. It's not a year-round event. This is not going to wipe out "50%" of Monarchs or 50% of anything. It's not even going to wipe out the unloved corn earworm borer, either.

"Thalamide" babies? I've never heard of that. Perhaps you should explain. When you're done, I'll tell you about "thalidomide".

Your last charming remark:

"So tell me Herr Eveangleista, where does that put you on the concept of ethnic cleansing, or need I ask? Better Serbs through selective murder?" a clear example of pointless troll-ism. I think this forum has seen sufficient troll feeding; it's not necessary for me to add to the frenzy.

Anita Evangelista

P.S. Unspun, in German "Herr" is the way you address a man. A woman, which you noticed that I was in an earlier message, is addressed as "Frau"(older/married) or "Fraulein"(young/unmarried). Hope this helps.

PPS -- for those concerned about hybrid seed availability post y2k (had to get this connected to y2k somehow), you can pretty well figure that this gen-eng little baby isn't going to be around....

-- Anita Evangelista (, May 20, 1999.

This is a response to a post way the hell up that blames scientists. I point out that Monsanto is not scientists,...but a corporation wishing to exploit in order to make money...

I'm off to read more,..I worry about my lovely tiger swallowtails here in California...if Monarchs have been impacted what about them?

We need a genetically-engineered agent to apply to the Monsanto executives' lunch food. Any freelance genetic engineers within earshot? LOL

-- Donna (, May 20, 1999.

In the meantime, please help the butterfies by planting butterfly bushes. Easy to grow and care for--just chop 'em off at about 8-10" every late winter/early spring, enjoy their lovely flowers (raspberry, white, lilac, a buuter yellow, and a very dark purple called "Black Knight") and beautiful visitors most of the summer. If you don't chop 'em, they grow straggly and don't have as many flowers. Your kids will love the hovering moths--look like miniature hummingbirds, fast as their wings beat. Black swallowtails visit in small swarms (here in NC, as do other butterflies and moths.

And while I'm on my Nature sopabox, please also plant lots of herbs and flowers for the embattled bees--a mite is killing them off and they need all the help they can get too. If you MUST spray your roses, do it just before dark after the bees and butterflies have gone home.

-- Old Git (, May 20, 1999.

On the front page of tomorrow's Electronic Telegraph: =99999999&pg=/et/99/5/21/ngm21.html

ISSUE 1456 - Friday 21 May 1999

Expert urges US to act over toxic GM pollen alert, By Charles Clover, Environment Editor Evidence against crops 'growing'

THE United States should ban a strain of genetically-modified maize if studies confirm that its pollen can kill the caterpillars of the threatened monarch butterfly, John Beringer, one of the Government's chief advisers said yesterday.

Prof Beringer, the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre), said that the findings by researchers at Cornell University, published in Nature magazine, amounted to "a real story" which he would expect US regulators to "do something about".

If further research confirmed the study's results, he said he would expect licences for the maize modified with the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, known as BT toxin, to be withdrawn. "On the assumption that this study is proved to be correct, I feel that there is a real need to make sure that it isn't causing harm to the butterflies and if it is, to reconsider the licensing," he said. The laboratory study is the strongest evidence yet that a genetically-engineered crop poses a danger to wildlife.

Its public impact on both sides of the Atlantic has been the greater - Nature's website crashed yesterday under the pressure of hits from all over the world - because the monarch butterfly is not just any wildlife. It is, as the Washington Post put it, "the Bambi of insects".

In America between 10 million and 20 million acres are already growing BT maize, made by five companies, of which the largest suppliers are Novartis, Monsanto and Pioneer Hybred International.

Cornell researchers dusted pollen from the maize on to the leaves of the milkweed plant which grows around corn fields and which is the monarch caterpillars' main food. They found that caterpillars suffered severe side-effects. Almost half died and the remainder grew to only half their normal size. John Losey, Linda Rayor and Maureen Carter, the authors of the study, wrote: "These results have potentially profound implications for the conservation of monarch butterflies." The monarch is considered an indicator of the health of the wildlife in the American mid-west.

Prof Beringer said that he had a number of questions about the Cornell study. First, it would need to be established that the effect of the pollen was the result of the genetic manipulation and was not a normal characteristic of the plant brought out by selective breeding. Secondly, he would need to be satisfied that the study, which appeared in the correspondence section of Nature, had been fully peer-reviewed. Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature, said later: "The article was thoroughly peer-reviewed before being accepted for publication."

Dr Beringer, added: "The balance of probability is that they are right." He said the findings showed "a potential problem" for other GM crops which produced wind-blown pollen, such as wheat and barley. If correct, the Cornell findings fit into a slim but growing body of research which shows that insecticidal GM crops could have serious effects on wildlife. A Swiss laboratory study has shown that BT maize can kill lacewings, beneficial predatory insects which eat aphids. But the study, by the Swiss Federal Research Stations for Agroecology and Agriculture, was not replicated in a field test. The Acre committee dismissed the Swiss study. Prof Beringer said that larger field trails were needed because insects moved around and therefore were often not exposed to toxins which might be present.

The maize has been approved for commercial use by the European Union but Britain could apply for a ban on the grounds that it damages the environment.

In the only other study which showed a GM crop having unintended effects, potatoes engineered to produce a toxin known as GNA lectin, normally given off by snowdrops, were shown to harm ladybirds which fed on the potatoes. The female ladybirds' lifetime was halved and they laid fewer eggs in the study, by the Dundee-based Scottish Research Institute. The scientists reported in the journal Molecular Breeding: "The significance of these potential ecological risks under field conditions needs to be further evaluated."

Prof Beringer has been commissioned by the Government to head a sub-committee of Acre, after he steps down as chairman next month, to look at the wider implications for wildlife of the widespread introduction of genetically modified crops.

The committee was set up after a study earlier this year highlighting potential damage to the countryside from the new farming methods.

AND =99999999&pg=/et/99/5/21/ngm121.html

ISSUE 1456 - Friday 21 May 1999

Evidence against crops 'growing', By Andrew Sparrow and Charles Clover

Expert urges US to act over toxic GM pollen alert

THE Tories stepped up their demands yesterday for a ban on the commercial release of genetically-modified crops after the leak of a letter from the Government's chief scientist saying he could not see ministers authorising their sale for at least three and a half years.

Tony Blair and his ministers have refused to impose a ban on the crops until the completion of trials to see what effect they may have on wildlife, as requested by English Nature.

Sir Robert May said in a letter to Dr Mark Avery, head of conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: "I guess we really are in complete agreement, because I share your view that 'I do not see how ministers could contemplate giving permission for commercial release of GM crops covered by this research until January 2003 at the earliest.' "

Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture minister, said the evidence against the crops was "growing every day". He also reiterated the party's demands for clearer labelling of GM products and demanded an assurance that the Government would publish full details of all the advice it has received. "We could be suffering irreversible damage to the British environment because of the Government's unwillingness to act," he said. He was speaking in advance of today's announcement by Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office minister, of the Government's review of the regulations on biotechnology.

Mr Yeo said he wanted the minister to announce a ban on the commercial release of GM herbicide tolerant and insect-resistant crops until tests were complete.

English Nature has said that this could take up to five years, but Mr Yeo refused to say when he would expect GM crops to be approved. "There is something irrational about saying that you are going to embark on a research programme and then making a decision that the research is supposed to inform before it is complete," he said. He also gave a warning about the dangers of releasing GM organisms too early. "If these crops were planted in Britain before the research was complete, there is a real risk that the balance of nature here would be destroyed."

Mr Yeo also criticised the activities of the Government's Biotechnology Presentation Group as revealed in the leaked letter. This showed that ministers have discussed in detail how to "spin" the media to secure favourable coverage on the issue.

-- Old Git (, May 20, 1999.

Last year I did a paper on Stragetic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP's) for a writing class I was taking. One of the SLAPP's suits I wrote about was Monsanto suing Peter Montagu, an environmental writer and board member of an enviromental magazine, that used to be Rachel's Hazardous Waste. They sued him for writing about Agent Orange, which they manufactured, and which caused so many problems after the View Nam War. They also sued a small dairy that advertised rBGH free milk.

I live in MO, the home of Monsanto's headquarters, and I can tell you they care nothing for people's health or the environment. If people don't wake up to the ruin that chemical companies are causing to our health and the environment, y2k isn't going to matter much. I urge everyone of you to read "Living Downstream" by Susan Steingraber, a biologist who contracted bladder cancer and traced all the chemical that she had been exposed to in her community in Ill. If you know anyone that has had cancer, and wonders about its cause, read this book. There is a ton of useful information for ferreting out what you've been exposed to. Also, check out the Environmental Defense Fund's web site, EDF Scorecard, to find out about the toxins that your state, county and town have been exposed to.

Times Beach Missouri is still fighting to keep dioxin laced dirt from being burned in unsafe incinerators which were declared safe by the state inspectors, and weren't.

Old Git, we have a field full of wild phlox and butterfly weeds and you should see the hundreds of butterflies flittering around, but the bees that once were plentiful, are now just a handful because of spraying and the mite infestation. I think the saddest book I ever read was, "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." It's a collection of poems and writings by children who were in the death camps during the holocaust. A nurse had them write about what being there meant, and the title is taken from a little boy's poem or essay. I don't think I would want to live in a world that had no butterflies.

Old Git, I'm working on a large wild flower garden. I wish you lived close to me so we could talk flowers and gardens. You can't imagine how distracting it is to be working in a garden next to a field filled with flowers, butterflies and birds. I let milkweed, Queen Anne's lace and all the good weeds grow around and even in the garden, as they are so beneficial to the good bugs and butterflies. Are you sure you don't want to buy our old house next door and move to Missouri? Also I never use chemical spray on anything, but I have some natural recipes for bugs.

Evangelista you better read a little more. Anita at Hillside, I too am an organic gardener (not farmer) and we should all fight to stop the GM and GE, irradiated, hormone and antibiotic lacedfood that is killing us slowly. You're right, we are crazy to allow any of this. I hope all of you are writing or sending emails to the FDA, USDA, Dept. of Ag and other Govt agencies that are trying to declare chemically treated food as organic.

Thanks for posting this topic, and thanks to everyone for the links. I do research for an environmental group and I welcome all the help I can get from posts of articles like this..

-- gilda (, May 21, 1999.


Thank you for the suggestion that I 'should read a little more'.

Although this topic has gone far afield of y2k, I should probably note that I've been an ORGANIC FARMER since the late 1970s, thank you, including raising sheep and goats organically, which is no picnic, I can tell you. I've written extensively on the subject, probably for magazines and publications you have read, and participated in some of the early national discussions (i.e. politics) about the definition of "organic". I've been saving heirloom seeds since SSE was less than 200 people, grow most of our foods using organic techniques, and raise rare breeds of chickens, sheep and goats -- and my flock of Jacobs was considered one of the most unique and diverse in the state.

I think this is a situation that I am qualified to discuss, as both a grower and an educator.

And you need to understand one critical fact: the people pushing some of our "enviro" agendas are not pure, healthy, innocent defenders of the earth, as they are often portrayed. They are not above lies, theft (and, here I mean land grabs), destroying other wildlife/feral animals that don't fit in with their plans (ask me about a little island off the coast of California, and what a big nature group had sharpshooters do to the native sheep -- or about the big conservation group that had me dumped as an editor of a magazine when I printed a single paragraph about their efforts to wipe out a rare breed of sheep that fed locals on an island).

Just as with the info on y2k, you've got to take the "we are killing the earth!!!" panic with a big grain of salt. The movement, IMHO, has degenerated into a rush to keep six-figure careers going, by any means necessary.

The butterflies will survive. More Monarchs are killed every year on windshields and Buick grills than will die from BT-corn pollen on milkweed -- Buicks run year-round; pollen is only for a few weeks.

Anita Evangelista

PS: This has run sooo far afield from y2k that I won't be visiting the thread again. Anyone wishing to flame me in person had better use my email address.

-- Anita Evangelista (, May 21, 1999.

I didn't mean to insult you. Although I am very impressed with your organice lifestyle, and your environmental involvement, I still think you are wrong. Just a difference of opinion. The fact is that so many species of everything are suffering from an overload of people, suburban sprawl, chemicals, pollution and loss of habitat that one more nail in the coffin might be their end.. I used to see dozens of monarchs, but in the last ten years, I hardly see any. The same with bees, and all the red squirrels are gone around here. The humming birds at our feeder has dwindled to three. We used to have that many feeders and dozens of humming birds. IMHO, damaging the environment is like a ship taking on water, after a certain point no matter what you do, it's too late, the thing is going to sink.

I do research for a not-for-profit group, and I've never had any dealings with environmentalists that were of the type you mention. The ones I've dealth with are avid protectors of the earth and get even more eloquent about ecology than they do over their kids, or grandkids.

Most of the liars and consI've met have been corporations or real estate developers wanting to make more bucks. I even had one guy tell me he would kill the last endangered species on earth just for the fame of doing it. Besides, why take a chance? We've always rushed to put stuff on the market before determining the long term effects.

-- gilda (, May 21, 1999.


I have been lamenting this all day, so having thoroughly embarrassed myself I would like to apologize to this forum and to Anita.

Not from conscious of issue, but for content.

So much is dying unnaturally and needlessly, children, elders, whales, and on and on, that I lost my temper over the butterflies.

When she defended (IMO) another assault, intended or not, on one of natures creations, I vented my frustration and fears on her in a way that was neither constructive nor appropriate.

Also the reference to Herr was not meant to infer a bigotry, it was a personal *visual* of the moment, not to mention it's stupidity. I'm sorry if I offended anyone.

-- unspun@lright (, May 21, 1999.

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