<bold>From: Becky Goldburg@EDF on 11/04/99 03:59 PM
Subject: Industry manipulation of research results on Bt corn and
I am writing to provide a first hand perspective on articles stating
"Bt corn poses little risk to monarchs" which have appeared in the
Tribune, LA Times, St Louis Post Dispatch, and other papers in the past
days. Some of these articles are below. I attended Tuesday's (Nov 2)
meeting in Rosemount, Illinois, on Bt corn and monarchs that is
in these articles. With the exception of an article in today's NYTimes
(also below), these articles all stated that the meeting would reach a
conclusion that Bt corn poses little risk to monarchs -- even though
of the articles were written before the meeting was even held!!
Luckily, Carol Yoon from the NY Times attended the meeting. During
afternoon, she stood up and said that she had just talked to her
and that they had received a press release from industry stating that
meeting would conclude that Bt corn presented little risk to monarchs.
BIO's press release, below.) Carol asked if participants agreed with
conclusion. The answer was a clear "No" from a number of researchers.
To be frank, I am appalled by industry's manipulation of a scientific
meeting at which a number of researchers -- many of which have only
analyzed some of their data and thus have only preliminary results to
report -- were supposed to discuss their work in a careful and
Please feel free to circulate this email message.
Environmental Defense Fund
---------------------- Forwarded by Becky Goldburg on 11/04/99 03:00 PM
From: Linda Jantzen on 11/04/99 10:37 AM
To: Becky Goldburg
Subject: NYTimes article
News from the Net
EDF Program: Biotechnology
Publication: New York Times
Headline: No Consensus on the Effects of Engineering on Corn Crops
Reporter: CAROL KAESUK YOON
November 4, 1999
No Consensus on the Effects of Engineering on Corn Crops
By CAROL KAESUK YOON
<smaller>ROSEMONT, Ill. -- An unusual scientific symposium
financed by a biotech trade group ended on Wednesday
conflicting claims about the risks that genetically
pose to the monarch butterfly.
Makers of the genetically altered corn were put on the
when a study by Cornell researchers was published in the
showing that pollen from corn producing the insecticidal toxin
kill monarch caterpillars in the laboratory. Since then the
to the monarch has become a focus for the growing opposition
genetically engineered crops by environmental and other
After the study, the biotech industry sponsored further
issue, including some presented at the meeting here. The
Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group, the industry group
organized the symposium, issued a statement this morning
scientists were expected to conclude that the altered corn
harm the monarch.
But far from culminating in a consensus, the day was marked
sometimes heated exchange and ended with some scientists
that the bioengineered corn was safer than had been feared
said that it was premature to drawn any such conclusions.
"I hope we will all be a little patient, and allow good
to work its
way to good data and good discussions," Dr. Adrianna Hewings,
represented the Department of Agriculture at the meeting, said
The department is the primary federal regulator of
Many of the researchers emphasized that their results were
with many studies still far from complete. Some presented
suggesting that pollen from different varieties differ in
one genetic variety of corn known as 176 posing a much
than other more common varieties. In addition, researchers
evidence that suggests that Bt corn pollen may not travel as
from fields as had been feared.
"The worst-case scenario is not true," said Dr. Stuart Weiss,
at Stanford University. "There's not a toxic pollen cloud
monarchs and all species."
Dr. Richard Hellmich, a research entomologist at Iowa State
was among the most positive about the safety of the corn. He
"research today had no bias to it" and that "there was a lot
presented that was positive about Bt corn."
But others noted that data presented showed that within and
cornfields, plants like milkweed, which monarch caterpillars
do get a
heavy dusting of toxin-producing pollen. What remains
researchers agreed, was where monarchs were really coming
what proportion were likely to be growing up on plants with
amounts of pollen.
"I don't know that we can even rule anything out based on the
Dr. John Losey, the entomologist at Cornell who was an author
original monarch study.
Stephen Johnson, an associate deputy assistant administrator
Environmental Protection Agency, said after the meeting that
from presentations that there is and still continues to be a
great deal of
scientific debate" and that the agency was not prepared to
Some researchers expressed concern that so many studies,
completion and none peer-reviewed or published, should be
public airing, in particular in a forum orchestrated by the
products safety has been brought into question. The industry
sponsoring the event includes the Monsanto Company, Novartis
Switzerland, Pioneer Hi-Bred, which is owned by the DuPont
and other makers of genetically engineered seed.
"We felt it was dirty pool and the fox was guarding the
said Dr. Lincoln Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar
Virginia. "It was not conclusive."
Copyright 1999 The New York Times
</smaller>SCIENTIFIC SYMPOSIUM TO SHOW NO HARM TO MONARCH BUTTERFLY
November 2, 1999
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Press Release
CHICAGO -- G<smaller>enetically improved corn poses negligible harm
butterfly population, a panel of scientists is expected to
day-long symposium on new field-conducted research that dispels
raised last spring about the safety of the Monarch population.
This summer, researchers went beyond the laboratory and into the
track the behavior of Monarchs, their feeding habits on milkweed
the proximity of milkweed to corn fields, and the effects of Bt
pollen on larvae.
The 20 scientists will release the results of 17 separate studies
specifically designed to address questions raised by a Cornell
study included in the Rscientific correspondenceS section of
British science journal.
The article claimed to establish a link between the mortality of
butterfly larvae and the presence of pollen from corn that has
genetically improved for protection against insect pests to
yielding and lower cost crops. That research was based on a
laboratory test that failed to simulate natural conditions. At
Dr. John E. Losey, author of the study, himself said: RIt would
inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the risk to Monarch
populations in the field based solely on these initial results.S
Does the pollen from genetically improved corn -- also known Bt
pollenQaffect the Monarch butterfly in nature?
The scientists participating in todayUs event have conducted
research Q from across the United States and Canada Q to address
question. The research results will be released today at the
Butterfly Research Symposium, conducted at the Rosemont Suites
OUHare near Chicago. The symposium will be hosted by the
Biotechnology Stewardship Working Group (ABSWG), with program
participation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural
Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The
conducted during the summer at universities in corn producing
North America and was funded independently and by the ABSWG.
The symposium will conclude with a special briefing for media at
which leading scientists will summarize research presented in
* Monarch biology and ecology, Dr. Chip Taylor, University of
* Larval feeding trends, Dr. Richard Hellmich, USDA-ARS; Iowa
* Milkweed distribution in the environment, Dr.
Start Weiss, Thomas Reid Associates, Palo Alto, Calif.
* Monarch sensitivity to Bt pollen, Dr. Blair Siegfried,
* Monarch exposure to Bt pollen, Dr. Galen Dively, University of
Location, time and registration information is provided below.
WHAT: Monarch Research Symposium P Media
WHEN: 4p.m. Central, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1999
WHERE: Rosemont Suites Hotel OUHare 5500 North
River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018
AUDIO: A toll-free phone line will be available to listen and ask
Please call Margaret Speich at (202) 296-1585 or Charlie Craig at
857-0244 for call-in number and to register.
The ABSWG is a consortium of companies and associations involved
research, development and introduction of agricultural
products. Some of the research to be presented at the symposium
by the ABSWG.
</smaller>MONARCH BUTTERFLY SO FAR NOT IMPERILED
>>GENE-ALTERED CORN GETS AN EARLY OK IN STUDIES
>>Peter Kendall, Tribune Environment Writer
>><smaller>When scientists announced in the spring that genetically
>>might kill monarch butterflies, two things happened:
>>Groups opposed to genetic engineering adopted the monarch, perhaps
>>recognizable American butterfly, as a symbol of the potential for
>>when science transplants genes from one species to another, and swarms
>>scientists headed out to cornfields across North America during the
>>to see if the work done in the lab made sense in the field.
>>Although data remains inconclusive, several studies suggest it is
>>that many monarchs will be killed by accidentally eating pollen from
>>so-called Bt corn.
>>On Tuesday, the first Monarch Butterfly Research Symposium is to
>>Rosemont, where university scientists, some of whom have received
>>from the bioengineering-seed companies, will discuss their early
>>"My impression right now is that the Bt impact on monarchs is
>>Dennis Calvin, a Penn State University entomologist. Highway
>>that mow roadsides and railroads that spray their right-of-ways
>>kill more monarchs than transgenic corn, Calvin said.
>>The summer's monarch research was spawned by the findings of John
>>Cornell University entomologist who in May reported in the science
>>Nature that transgenic corn has the potential to kill monarch
>>He found that if milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars
>>dusted with pollen from genetically engineered corn, some of the
>>Bt corn has been implanted with a gene taken from a bacterium that is
>>to caterpillars. The gene tells the corn to produce the same
>>poison the bacteria makes, killing off a pest called the corn borer,
>>larvae. But that is toxin also present in the corn's pollen, which
>>the corn and lands on any plant that happens to be growing nearby,
>>Scientists over the summer tried to measure how much Bt pollen it
>>kill the caterpillars and how much might land on milkweed leaves.
>>Mark Sears, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, found
>>corn pollen doesn't travel far. Using sticky petri dishes set on
>>that are about the height of
>>milkweed, about 3 feet, Sears and his colleagues determined that 90
>>of the pollen landed within 16 feet of the field. He also set out to
>>out how much Bt pollen has to be sitting on a milkweed leaf to kill a
>>monarch caterpillar. He found a threshold of about
>>500 to 700 pollen grains per square centimeter before the youngest,
>>monarch larvae started to die.
>>When the researchers counted pollen grains on milkweed leaves in the
>>they found that plants growing in the cornfield had an average of 78
>>of Bt pollen per square centimeter. Milkweed just three feet outside
>>cornfield had only 26 grains per centimeter.
>>"The risk to monarch larvae is very minimal," Sears said.
>>Galen Dively from the University of Maryland also set out to measure
>>much of the pollen lands on milkweed and collected 1,300 milkweed
>>from in and around Maryland cornfields. Although just 13 percent of
>>samples have been analyzed at a federal pollen laboratory, the early
>>also suggest that there is not enough pollen on milkweed leaves to
>>"The milkweed isn't real good at catching pollen," Dively said.
>>tends to bounce off of it."
>>John Pleasants, a professor in the department of zoology and genetics
>>Iowa State University, found that 88 percent of the milkweed within
>>meter of a corn field would fall below the level where they could
>>caterpillars, and 100 percent of the milkweed just two meters from a
>>field would be monarch-safe.
>>Losey, too, will submit new research at the symposium that suggests
>>monarchs might avoid milkweed near corn plants anyway.
>>He believes, however, that the question remains open of whether Bt
>>"It is too early to be reassured or more alarmed based on the early
>>Losey said. "It's too early to rule how big a risk there is going to
>>SCIENTISTS DISCOUNT THREAT TO BUTTERFLY FROM ALTERED CORN
>>By Robert Steyer
>>St. Louis Post-Dispatch
>>The monarch butterfly has a lot more to fear than the pollen of
>>engineered corn, several experts said Monday.
>>The scientists, among 20 who will present reports today, said new
>>tests and past research indicate that monarch butterfly larvae are
>>threatened more by pesticides and environmental damage than by
>>Their findings may play an important role in the debate over
>>food because the monarch has become a rallying point for biotech
>>The critics argue that federal government approvals have moved too
>>for biotech crops with built-in defenses against insects and weeds.
>>But most of the seven scientists speaking Monday said they believe
>>to these butterflies is small.
>>"If we thought there would be a big risk to the monarch, we wouldn't
>>behind this technology," said John Pleasants, assistant professor of
>>and genetics at Iowa State University.
>>"I don't think it's an issue," said John Foster, professor of
>>the University of Nebraska, who has "no reservations" about planting
>>eating genetically engineered corn.
>>"Habitat destruction, mowing and spraying rights of ways with
>>have a greater impact on butterflies' health and safety, Foster said.
>>Dennis Calvin, professor of entomology at Pennsylvania State
>>said his "impression is that the (biotech corn pollen) impact on
>>The scientists have been studying the impact of biotech corn pollen
>>monarch larvae and on milkweed, the monarch's principal food. They
>>a telephone conference call to several newspaper reporters that was
>>by a biotechnology trade group.
>>They offered a preview of research that will be presented today at a
>>symposium in Chicago, adding that some research is preliminary and
>>data are still being tabulated.
>>The symposium is organized by Monsanto Co., several other biotech
>>trade organizations representing the agribusiness and biotechnology
>>They are paying these prominent academic researchers approximately
>>to examine larvae feeding behavior, the spread of pollen, the
>>of milkweed and the toxicity of biotech pollen.
>>These tests follow a May report by a Cornell University researcher,
>>monarch butterfly larvae exposed to pollen from biotech corn had
>>death rates and lower growth rates than larvae exposed to pollen from
>>The researcher, John E. Losey, assistant professor of entomology,
>>the tests in a laboratory. He said field tests were necessary to
>>Although some researchers criticized Losey's work, his article in the
>>magazine Nature helped inflame anti-biotech opinion in the United
>>also had an impact in Europe, where consumers and politicians support
>>labeling of gene-altered food and restricting - or even banning
>>crop imports from the United States.
>>"The bottom line is we need more data," Losey said Monday during the
>>conference call. He has done field tests on monarch larvae feeding
>>independently of the industry-backed research. His results have been
>>"I'm not reassured or more alarmed about (my original study) based on
>>data," Losey said. "It is too early to tell to rule out a risk or to
>>how strong the risk will be."
>>It's also too early to tell how the Chicago symposium will affect the
>>American public, which has been more supportive of - or at least less
>>antagonistic to - crop biotechnology than Europeans.
>>Critics are accelerating their campaigns, suing to stop the federal
>>government from approving new biotech crops and threatening protests
>>World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in four weeks. They use
>>monarch - nicknamed "the Bambi of the insect world" by one entomologist
>>Recently, a coalition of environmental and anti-biotechnology groups
>>running full-page ads in The New York Times. The latest, entitled
>>Roulette," features a photo of a monarch amid an appeal for a fiv
>>freeze on new releases of genetically- altered plants and animals.
>>The scientists who spoke Monday made it clear that the monarch
>>debate isn't as simple as critics or corporations suggest. For
>>* Different types of biotech pollen have different degrees of
>>example, pollen from a Novartis corn used on few acres is much more
>>than pollen from widely used biotech corn developed by Monsanto.
>>* Corn pollen concentrations dissipate as they are blown into
>>areas filled with milkweed. Potential danger thresholds for monarchs
>>on pollen toxicity and the milkweed's distance from cornfields. Wind,
>>irrigation practices and other factors influence the concentration of
>>* Pleasants, the Iowa State researcher, found that pollen
>>milkweed at the edge of a cornfield could vary by 80-fold depending
>>the milkweed plants were upwind or downwind of the field.
>>* In Nebraska, Foster found that 95 percent of the corn pollen had
>>before the first monarch egg had been found, suggesting there was
>>chance monarchs would be affected. But Calvin's computer- model
>>six states found there could be big variations in the overlap of
>>egg-laying and pollen shedding. "We don't know the impact on the
>>levels of the monarch," he said. "We don't have that data."
>>The scientists said, as have their sponsors, that industry financing
>>affected their work. "Industry has supported (my research) over the
>>said Foster, "and I give them an honest answer that's not always the
>>they want to hear."
Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction Project
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
University of Wisconsin - Madison
U.S. Mail: 146 Agriculture Hall 608.262.7135
Campus: 1535 Observatory Drive 608.262.5200
Madison, WI 53706 fax 265.3020
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