We have started to include the GE Free symbol of the Monarch butterfly on our Kio Kio packaging. At this point, New Zealand is a totally ‘GE Free’ environment and we are able to source GE free raw materials. Long may that continue…
There is an interesting story as to why the monarch butterfly was chosen to be the icon for the GE free product labeling campaign. It was chosen after a near miss in the release of a GE modified corn that could have had disastrous effects on the USA monarch population.
As detailed in this article:
There has been a notable near miss with the monarch butterfly, a situation that has much to teach about the weaknesses of the U.S. regulatory system. In the spring of 2000, the U.S. media were confronted with a preliminary report in Nature indicating that pollen from Bt corn could kill the larvae of monarch butterflies in laboratory studies. The Nature study was published after several Bt-corn varieties had been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and over 20 million acres of Bt corn were planted in the United States. The big question was why the EPA had not addressed the threat to monarchs before approval of Bt corn. From a scientific standpoint, it is not surprising that a toxin aimed at the European corn borer (moth larvae) would also affect the larvae of the monarch butterfly. The tests required by the EPA prior to approval of Bt crops included a few trials in which Bt toxin was fed to honeybees and lacewings, among other organisms, but did not include tests on any non-pest moths and butterflies (EPA, 1997).
The storm of publicity eventually forced the government to do a thorough risk assessment of the threat. To its credit, the USDA organized aworkshop of scientists with expertise in the many areas needed to evaluate the monarch issue and asked them to generate a multi-disciplinary research program that would address the risks. It established a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to formulate a set of coordinated research projects to determine whether Bt corn is lethal to monarchs under field conditions. The department also provided funds—as did industry—to support the research. The results of the studies were published in five papers in September 2001 in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). (Hellmich
et al., 2001; Oberhauser et al., 2001). The major conclusion of the research was that only one of several Bt-corn varieties (Event 176) approved and planted for use in the United States produced high enough levels of Bt toxin in pollen to be lethal to butterfly larvae. Fortunately, that variety of genetically modified corn did not sell well and was not widely planted. Pollen from the two types of Bt corn which account for most of the Bt-corn acreage (Mon 810 and Bt 11) produce relatively low amounts of toxin and pose negligible risk to monarchs. If Event 176 had turned out to be popular, monarchs
could have been in serious jeopardy. It was just luck break and not governmental controls that protected the monarch butterfly. However, these studies did not completely resolve the issue. Some scientists have pointed out that monarchs consume tissue from anthers—the pollen-producing parts of the corn flower—as well as pollen from Bt corn as reported by Pleasants et al. (2001) and Sears et al. (2001). Since anthers have been shown to contain considerably more toxin than pollen, these scientists believe that the PNAS studies based on pollen alone may seriously underestimate the toxin dose consumed by monarch larvae in corn fields.
These concerns are supported by other studies showing that a mixture of Bt 11 pollen and anther fragments has a deleterious effect on monarch larvae (Stanley-Horn et al., 2001). The PNAS studies also did not examine long-term effects of Bt corn, such as delayed development, impaired reproduction, and altered migration. The monarch story shows that these studies should be carried out before the products are released and not after. Yet, there has been no interest in adopting the monarch research model to subsequent EPA risk assessments. The recent application for the approval of a new Bt-corn variety directed against corn rootworms, for example, was not accompanied by research done in accordance with an agenda set by a multistakeholder group. EPA’ s risk assessment, which was heavily criticized, was carried out under strong pressure to quickly approve products. Until risk assessment procedures improve, the public will not have confidence that another monarch-like threat will be detected before it is too late.”
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:
The Politics and Science Behind GMO Acceptance
Theodoros H. Varzakas a; Ioannis S. Arvanitoyannis b; Haralambos Baltas c
a Department of Processing of Agricultural Products, School of Agricultural
Sciences, T. H. Varzakas Technological Educational Institute of Kalamata, Hellas,
b School of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Animal Production and
Aquatic Environment, University of Thessaly, Volos, Hellas, Greece
c School of Political Science, University of Athens, Greece
Online Publication Date: 01 May 2007
To cite this Article: Varzakas, Theodoros H., Arvanitoyannis, Ioannis S. and Baltas,
Haralambos (2007) ‘The Politics and Science Behind GMO Acceptance’, Critical
Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 47:4, 335 – 361
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/10408390600762696