BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A study by an Indiana University environmental science professor and several colleagues suggests a widely planted variety of genetically engineered corn has the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems. The study is being published online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
Researchers, including Todd V. Royer, an assistant professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, established that pollen and other plant parts containing toxins from genetically engineered Bt corn are washing into streams near cornfields.
They also conducted laboratory trials that found consumption of Bt corn byproducts produced increased mortality and reduced growth in caddisflies, aquatic insects that are related to the pests targeted by the toxin in Bt corn.
Caddisflies, Royer said, "are a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians. And, if our goal is to have healthy, functioning ecosystems, we need to protect all the parts. Water resources are something we depend on greatly."
Other principal investigators for the study, titled "Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems," were Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. It was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Bt corn is engineered to include a gene from the micro-organism Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a toxin that protects the crop from pests, in particular the European corn borer. It was licensed for use in 1996 and quickly gained popularity. In 2006, around 35 percent of corn acreage planted in the U.S. was genetically modified, the study says, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Before licensing Bt corn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted trials to test its impact on water biota. But it used Daphnia, a cr
|Contact: Steve Hinnefeld|