Scientific Symposium To Show No Harm to Monarch Butterfly

Nov. 2, 1999 (Chicago) -- Genetically improved corn poses negligible harm to the Monarch butterfly population, a panel of scientists is expected to conclude at a day-long symposium on new field-conducted research that dispels doubts raised last spring about the safety of the Monarch population.

This summer, researchers went beyond the laboratory and into the field to track the behavior of Monarchs, their feeding habits on milkweed plants, the proximity of milkweed to corn fields, and the effects of Bt corn pollen on larvae.

The 20 scientists will release the results of 17 separate studies specifically designed to address questions raised by a Cornell University study included in the ôscientific correspondenceö section of Nature, a British science journal.

The article claimed to establish a link between the mortality of Monarch butterfly larvae and the presence of pollen from corn that has been genetically improved for protection against insect pests to produce higher yielding and lower cost crops. That research was based on a four-day laboratory test that failed to simulate natural conditions. At the time, Dr. John E. Losey, author of the study, himself said: ôIt would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the risk to Monarch populations in the field based solely on these initial results.ö

Does the pollen from genetically improved corn -- also known Bt pollen -- affect the Monarch butterfly in nature?

The scientists participating in today's event have conducted field research from across the United States and Canada to address this key question. The research results will be released today at the Monarch Butterfly Research Symposium, conducted at the Rosemont Suites Hotel O'Hare near Chicago. The symposium will be hosted by the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group (ABSWG), with program participation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The research was conducted during the summer at universities in corn producing regions of North America and was funded independently and by the ABSWG.

The symposium will conclude with a special briefing for media at 4 p.m. at which leading scientists will summarize research presented in five interest areas:

  • Monarch biology and ecology, Dr. Chip Taylor, University of Kansas
  • Larval feeding trends, Dr. Richard Hellmich, USDA-ARS; Iowa State University
  • Milkweed distribution in the environment, Dr. Start Weiss, Thomas Reid Associates, Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Monarch sensitivity to Bt pollen, Dr. Blair Siegfried, University of Nebraska
  • Monarch exposure to Bt pollen, Dr. Galen Dively, University of Maryland

    Location, time and registration information is provided below.

    WHAT: Monarch Research Symposium -- Media Briefing

    WHEN: 4p.m. Central, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1999

    WHERE: Rosemont Suites Hotel O'Hare5500 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018

    AUDIO: A toll-free phone line will be available to listen and ask questions.

    Please call Margaret Speich at (202) 296-1585 or Charlie Craig at (202) 962-9200 for call-in number and to register.

    The ABSWG is a consortium of companies and associations involved in the research, development and introduction of agricultural biotechnology products. Some of the research to be presented at the symposium was funded by the ABSWG.