BIO Statement Regarding Purported New Findings on BT Corn and Monarch Butterflies

(Dr. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization [BIO] issued the following statement in response to a paper by Dr. John Obrycki published online in the journal Oecologia.)

WASHINGTON (August 21, 2000) --Dr. Obrycki’s research stands in the shadow of more than 20 independent studies by widely recognized scientific experts who have found that bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn does not pose a significant risk to the monarch butterfly, said Dr. Val Giddings, a geneticist. This report considers only one small area of this complex topic and the conclusions put forward by the authors stand in stark contrast to those of the broader scientific community’s research.

The Oecologia paper is not truly ‘field research’ inasmuch as much of what it reports is based on analyses taking place in laboratory manipulations rather than field conditions. Furthermore, the paper clearly shows that larval mortality was not correlated with the number of pollen grains on the plant or the plant location within or at the edge of the field, surprises in search of an explanation.

Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture have studied bt corn for many years. Just last week the EPA extended the registrations of these products through the 2001 growing season. And in April, the EPA dismissed a Greenpeace lawsuit challenging the bt plant registrations on a lack of merit, and stated ‘...available scientific data and information indicates that the cultivation of bt crops has a positive ecological effect, when compared to the most likely alternatives.’

To imply that Bt corn has a negative effect on monarch butterflies flies in the face of the fact that last year, more than 28 million acres were planted with bt corn, an increase of approximately 40% over the previous year. In the same time period, the monarch butterfly population flourished and increased by about 30%, according to Monarch Watch.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is the world’s largest organization to serve and represent the biotechnology industry. BIO’s leadership and service-oriented guidance have helped advance the industry and bring the benefits of biotechnology to people everywhere. BIO represents more than 900 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 states and more than 27 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural and industrial and environmental biotechnology products.


Additional experts:

Dr. Mark Sears, Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental Biology at the Ontario Agriculture College of the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (519) 824-4120.

Dr. John Pleasants, Department of Zoology and Genetics at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. (515) 294-7204.

EPA response to Greenpeace lawsuit concerning the registration and use of genetically engineered plants expressing bacillus thuringiensis endotoxins