GM corn is not so deadly

June 16, 2000

A new study into the effects that genetically modified Bt corn, engineered to produce a natural insecticide, may have on insects it was not intended to affect has contradicted controversial research on monarch caterpillars last year.

A team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has found the crop has no impact on black swallowtail caterpillars living on weeds alongside cornfields.

The research, published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, comes just over a year after a group of Cornell University scientists reported in Nature that Bt corn caused premature death of monarch caterpillars. This prompted environmentalists to call for the banning of the GM crop.

Bt corn has been modified to carry genetic material that makes the Bacillus thuringiesis toxin, a substance that is fatal to European corn borers, a major pest for farmers.

The latest study involved both laboratory and field tests in which pollen from a crop of Monsanto Bt corn was monitored and measured at a variety of distances from the crop.

May Berenbaum, head of the University of Illinois's entomology department, said: "We found that many caterpillars died but not, as far as we could tell, due to anything connected to the corn or the corn pollen."

However, a Bt corn made by Novartis that contained 40 times the amount of toxin in the Monsanto crop, was found to cause caterpillar mortality in the laboratory.

Dr Berenbaum said: "This is not the green light for all forms of genetically modified organisms but it does suggest there are ways to reduce the risk to non-target organisms at the very least by selecting particular GM varieties."

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Professorship in Behavioural Science LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Foundation Partnerships Officer LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

Social media icons

Gabriel Egan laments the narcissistic craving for others’ approval brought on, he says, by the use of social networking websites

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman