Ecological Implications

Bt and Monarch Butterflies, continued

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What is being done?

Original art by Siiri Morley, 1999 Since the research that is being conducted on the effect Bt corn has on Monarch larvae is preliminary many farmers and crop organizations are waiting to act. If more studies indicate that Monarch larvae are being killed by Bt, farmers may be asked to plant rows and end rows of a nonBt corn hybrid, which would move the Bt from the field edge. This would limit the spread of Bt to milkweed leaves (VanDyk, pg.4). Japan is taking more immediate action. The country is to tighten its safety regulations on gentically modified crops because of the recent studies. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will suspend approval of Bt crops for agricultural purposes until its committee on genetically modified organisms has established criteria for evaluation the safety of such crops (Saegusa, pg.719). The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has also called for immediate action, sending a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which called for a restriction on the planting Bt corn. EDF also sent letters to chief executive officers of Monsanto, Novartis and other companies selling Bt corn, asking them to restrict planting(

Is this really a problem?

Many people believe that the the effect Bt corn has on Monarchs is a non-issue. Scientists have pointed out that studies have not shown that Bt pollen will kill all monarchs. Furthermore, they claim that loss of habitat is a greater risk to monarchs than Bt pollen will ever be. Environmentalists, however, see some other issues here. They fear that Bt may be causing more damage than just threatening monarchs. A Swiss study has shown that a species called lacewings died more quickly if they fed on corn borers reared on Bt corn. A Scotish toxicologist who added insect resistant genes and proteins to pellets and fed them to rats reported that the animals suffered damaged immune systems( Jeremy Rifkin claims that this is a smoking gun and a red flag everyone is going to have to look at( The underlying issue is that this is another example of a product of modern technology that has had unexpected negative environmental effects. The situation with monarch butterfly larvae is drawing our attention to the possible dangers of genetically engineered agriculture. Could we be damaging the food chain? Could we be upsetting the balance of nature? This is a red flag that should not be ignored.

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