14 December 2000
‘GMOs not threat to butterflies’

By FWi staff

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are having to backtrack from claims that monarch butterflies were killed by genetically modified crops, reports The Times.

A 1999 Cornell University study suggested that larvae of the butterfly died after eating pollen from maize genetically modified to produce its own pesticide.

Another study seemed to back this, but now the newspaper says few researchers believe this means that GM maize kills butterflies.

It says the original Cornell research was never intended to replicate field conditions and larvae were fed exclusively on food they would never normally eat.

The Times says subsequent research has found no significant difference between butterfly survival in GM and conventional crops.

One study even showed that monarch butterflies were more widespread in GM fields because there were fewer predators.

Other research found that pollen rarely collected on food weeds at anything like the levels that could be toxic to butterflies.

British entymologist Guy Poppy said the Cornell study merely identified that GM maize could be hazardous to monarch butterflies if they had no choice of food.

He said what was really important was how widespread the hazard actually is in nature, and that it seems to be remote.