Daily News Archive
From December 14, 2000

Bt Corn Pollen May Contaminate Monarch's Food Supply

Scientists are concerned that pollen from genetically modified corn may be killing monarch butterflies by contaminating the insect's favorite food, milkweed, which is commonly found in and near corn and soybean fields. Research conducted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Minnesota found that half of the corn and soybean fields in Iowa and Minnesota contain milkweed. The Minnesota study also found that milkweed growing in cornfields was two to five times more likely to be covered with larvae or eggs, most likely due to the favorable growing conditions.

"We didn't have a good idea whether there is a significant amount (of milkweed) in corn fields or near corn fields," Douglas Buhler, who conducted the USDA research, told the Associated Press. "It provides the information that people can use to assess the potential impact of the genetically engineered corn."

The concern is that the caterpillars consume pollen from corn genetically engineered to produce Bt, a natural pesticide that is extremely toxic to butterflies and moths, after it lands on the leaves of the milkweed. Last year, about 19 percent of the US corn crop contained the Bt producing gene.