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Monarchs got lucky

(Feb. 8, 2002 CropChoice opinion) A report in Agricultural Research Magazine Vol. 50, No. 2 http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb02/corn0202.htm found that Bt corn poses little or no threat to monarch butterflies.

The findings of this study seem to contradict those of research that the May 1999 edition of Nature highlighted. The researchers discovered that Syngenta (then Novartis) Bt 176 corn pollen, which was already on the market without having undergone environmental safety testing, was toxic to the monarchs.

Fortunately for the butterflies, Bt 176 sold very poorly, so Syngenta is removing it from the market. Its registration expired on April 1, 2001 and all product stock must be used by the end of the 2003 growing season.

In short, the monarchs were lucky. They were lucky that the variety of Bt corn that could kill them was a poor seller. But relying on luck and mandating no environmental, agronomic and human health safety testing and labeling is a poor excuse for leadership on the important issue of agricultural biotechnology.