U.S. Experts Conducting Monarch Butterfly Field Research

WASHINGTON (Aug. 12, 1999) -- An expert panel of university and independent researchers, entomologists and weed scientists is currently conducting studies to assess the potential risk of Bt corn pollen to monarch butterfly larvae, according to the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group (ABSWG). The field research will assess whether the small amount of pollen outside corn fields could affect butterfly larvae in their natural habitat as they feed on milkweed plants.

"We want to make sure that the monarch is protected, so this comprehensive research program was launched to assess the potential risk of monarch butterfly exposure to Bt corn pollen under natural conditions," said Val Giddings, Ph.D., vice president for food and agriculture, Biotechnology Industry Organization, a member of the ABSWG, which is sponsoring the research. "Our goal was to assemble a cadre of top-flight, highly reputable and credible public researchers to answer the real questions that grew out of the Cornell University laboratory study reported in Nature earlier this year."

"The panel also will follow through on actual field studies and coordinate a symposium of the scientific proceedings with results to be reported as early as November 1999," said Leah Porter, Ph.D., executive director of the American Crop Protection Association Biotechnology Committee, also a member of ABSWG. "This forum will ensure peer review of research findings and conclusions well before corn planting begins in 2000."

The major research projects currently underway focus on milkweed distribution, pollen movement, monarch biology and biochemistry of Bt pollen. Researchers are:

+ Dr. Dennis Calvin, Pennsylvania State University
+ Dr. Galen Dively, University of Maryland
+ Dr. John Foster, University of Nebraska
+ Dr. Rick Hellmich, USDA-ARS, Iowa State University
+ Dr. Les Lewis, USDA-ARS, Iowa State University
+ Dr. John Pleasants, Iowa State University
+ Dr. Tom Reid, Reid & Associates, California
+ Dr. Chip Taylor, University of Kansas
+ Dr. Jeff Wyman, Michigan State University

The Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group is a consortium of companies and associations involved in the research, development and introduction of agricultural biotechnology products. ABSWG participants include AgrEvo USA; American Crop Protection Association; Biotechnology Industry Organization; Dow AgroSciences LLC; Monsanto Company; Novartis Seeds Inc.; and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.