1. Monarchs - useful summary of recent research
2. Monsanto summary
3. Syngenta closure
4. Video launch - nonviolence for a change
1. Monarchs - useful summary of recent research
I know that Jean put information on this recently - [see below] but I thought this brief summary from Greenpeace news might also be of interest.
At the end of the first week of September, the Environmental Protection Agency released a statement to the press that Bt corn pollen had been found not to be toxic to monarch butterflies. According to the agency, a series of studies soon to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) would show once and for all that Bt corn was not harmful to our favourite butterfly.
But unfortunately for monarchs, this isn't the end of the story. On September 11, four scientists submitted comments to the EPA disagreeing with their conclusions. One of the scientists, Karen Oberhauser from the University of Minnesota, was an author of one of the studies cited by the EPA.
The main point of the four scientists was that the studies had been focused on the risk only from the corn pollen itself. But in fact, corn anthers (the structure that houses the pollen) are far more toxic to butterflies and they too are found on the milkweed plants eaten by monarchs. But no studies had been done that looked at the impact of both pollen and anthers on the butterflies. The industry-funded studies showing "negligible" harm from corn seemed to be designed to show the least possible harm, as industry studies so often do. The four scientists contend that until that research is done with naturally occurring levels of anthers, no claims of safety may be made. Moreover, the scientific studies published in PNAS confirmed that one type of Bt corn that has been on the market for five years is quite toxic to monarchs and at least five threatened or endangered butterflies. The manufacturer Novartis is voluntarily withdrawing this corn - Event 176 - from the market. Instead of calling for the immediate ban on planting of Event 176, the EPA is allowing the toxic corn to be grown for another two years.
Environmentalists need no longer worry that GM crops will wipe out the Monarch butterfly. Scientists working for Monarcho Inc, the US-based biotechnology corporation, have now developed a new herbicide-resistant butterfly. The "Monarcho"(TM) Bt-resistant butterfly will be on sale to conservation groups and national park managers from next year.
Monarcho spokesman, Gene Splice, said "this is a wonderful breakthrough and proof of the biotechnology industry's contribution to biodiversity".
He explained that in order to protect their invention they had obtained a patent on Monarch butterfly genes. Any landowners or government agencies that had wild Monarch butterflies on their land would be infringing the patent and were asked to hand in their wild butterflies in exchange for the new improved version. They had called on NAFTA to impose sanctions on Mexico after the Mexican government had refused to hand over their 10 million butterflies.
To prevent accidental crossbreeding with illegal wild butterflies the Monarchos (TM) incorporate a terminator gene and so need replacing each year. Conservation groups and national park managers can obtain their annual supplies by sending a standing order of $50 per Monarcho (TM) per year to Monarcho Inc.
2. Monsanto summary posted by Jean to GM-ACT
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 10:28 AM
Subject: Special Focus Biotech Science News September 14, 2001 - Monarch
Studies Published in PNAS
Special Focus Biotech Science News
September 18, 2001
New Published Scientific Studies Confirm Low Risk of Bt Corn to Monarch Butterflies
Results of collaborative research by scientists from universities and research institutions in the United States and Canada, which examined the risks of Bt corn to monarch butterflies have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). These studies from leading scientific experts provide science-based evidence that potential risks of Bt corn to monarchs is low.
This body of comprehensive research was intended to investigate the potential for any adverse effects of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn on the non-target organism, Danaus plexippus (L.), otherwise known as the monarch butterfly. Each study addressed a specific research area, and the collective results address the potential risk of Bt corn to monarchs under natural field conditions.
Ecological risk is determined when both toxic effects and exposure are jointly assessed. These studies not only provide quantitative data on laboratory studies using different Bt proteins from different sources, but also data evaluating potential effects using different Bt corn hybrids under field conditions, a variety of exposure scenarios, and incorporated monarch breeding habits and habitats.
This research was supported by a pooled grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, and funding from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ontario Corn Growers Association, the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ames, IA).
The papers are available on-line using the following link: <http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml>
Research in Six Key Areas:
* Sensitivity of Monarch Larvae to Bt proteins and Pollen in Laboratory Conditions
* Levels of Corn Pollen on Milkweeds in and near Cornfields
* Exposure Level Assessments in Natural Monarch Breeding Habitats
* Impact of Bt Corn Pollen on Monarch Larvae in Field Conditions
* Effects of Event 176 Bt Corn Pollen on Monarch and Black Swallowtail Caterpillars Under Field Conditions
* Overall Risk Assessments on the Impact of Bt Corn Pollen to Monarchs
* Hellmich, R.L., Siegfried, B.D., Sears, M.K., Stanley-Horn, D.E., Daniels, M.J., Mattila, H.R., Spencer, T., Bidne, K.G., Lewis, L.C. 2001. Monarch Larvae Sensitivity to Bacillus thuringiensis Purified Proteins and Pollen. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This research focused on laboratory studies, which investigated the sensitivity of monarch larvae to Bt purified proteins and pollen isolated from Bt corn hybrids. Purified proteins tested included Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac, Cry9C, and Cry1F. Testing methods included purified proteins added to an artificial diet, pollen from commercial and experimental Bt corn hybrids directly applied to milkweed leaf discs, and pollen contaminated with corn tassel material directly applied to milkweed leaf discs.
It is important to note that this study also examined the effects of pollen containing corn tassel material on monarch larval weight. Larvae whose diet included Bt corn pollen containing corn tassel material had low weights whereas larvae consuming finely sifted pollen with most of the non-pollen materials removed had higher weights. Results from these experiments suggest that monarch larvae were affected by corn tassel materials in the samples and not by the pollen itself.
1. Cry9C and Cry1F proteins are relatively nontoxic to monarch first instar larvae and first instars are more sensitive to Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac proteins, while older instars are less susceptible to Cry1Ab protein.
2. Corn tassel materials, which are artifacts of pollen processing can dramatically influence larval survival and weight gains.
3. Transgenic corn pollen from Cry1Ab event 176 hybrids did affect monarch larvae*, while results from other types of Bt corn suggest that pollen from Cry1Ab (events Bt11, Mon810) and Cry1F, and experimental Cry9C hybrids will have no acute effects on monarch butterfly larvae in field settings.
* Event 176 contains a pollen-specific promoter and expresses high amounts of Cry1Ab in pollen. This hybrid represents less than two percent of corn planted and re-registration has not been applied for this variety.
The results of these laboratory bioassays show that pollen tested from Bt corn varieties from commercial events Bt11 and Mon810, which represent the vast majority of Bt corn acreage in the US, had negligible effects on Monarch larvae in the laboratory and will have no acute effects on monarch larvae in a field setting. Given that risk is an assessment based on both hazard and exposure, any potential risk of Bt176 corn pollen to monarch larvae is also negligible due to low exposure of monarch larvae to this variety.
Study # 2
* Pleasants, J.M., Hellmich, R.L., Dively, G.P., Sears, M.K., Stanley-Horn, D.E., Mattila, H.R., Foster, J.E., Clark, T.L., Jones, G.D. 2001. Corn Pollen Deposition on Milkweeds in and near Cornfields. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This research focused on establishing a realistic picture of naturally occurring pollen levels to find a perspective for laboratory and field studies of monarch larvae feeding on milkweed leaves with Bt corn pollen. The amounts of corn pollen on leaves of milkweed plants within and outside of cornfields were evaluated and measurements were taken from several studies from different locations.
1. Pollen density was highest inside the cornfield and progressively lower from the field edge outward.
2. Inside corn fields, 95% leaf samples had pollen densities below 600 grains/cm2 and the highest pollen density observed was 1400 grains/cm2 , which occurred in one study with a rainless anthesis period (a single rain event can remove 54-86% of the pollen on leaves).
3. Leaves on the upper portion of milkweed plants, where young larvae prefer to feed only had 30-50% of the pollen density of leaves in the middle portion.
The results of these studies confirm that a number of factors can account for density levels of pollen including collection time and key processes that can remove pollen from leaves. These include processes such as rain, whether or not pollen grains adhere to the milkweed leaf surface, and position of the leaves sampled, which affects differences in leaf orientation and leaf area. Other factors such as position of the milkweed relative to the corn canopy, and cultivar differences, and overall environmental factors can affect pollen densities. These studies provide information on the range and distribution of corn pollen densities to which the monarch larvae could be exposed. Given the importance of relating risk to both exposure and hazard, these studies provide key information to help assess the potential exposure of Monarch larvae to Bt pollen. Exposure to larvae would be highest within the cornfield and drops progressively away from a cornfield. Rainfall is an important factor that would reduce exposure risks to Bt corn pollen. Another factor which reduces exposure to first instars, the most vulnerable to Bt proteins, is that they tend to feed on the upper leaves and this data showed that upper leaves have only 30-50% of the pollen density of middle leaves. A third factor reducing exposure is that the young larvae do not tend to feed on the leaf midrib, which has higher pollen densities.
These data collectively provide a realistic assessment of the varying corn pollen levels under different field conditions and confirms that a number of key factors should be taken into consideration to make a realistic evaluation of environmental risk.
* Oberhauser, K.S., Prysby, M.D., Mattila, H.R., Stanley-Horn, D.E., Sears, M.K., Dively, G., Olson, E., Pleasants, J.M., Lam, W.F., Hellmich, R.L. 2001. Temporal and Spatial Overlap between Monarch Larvae and Corn Pollen. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This research investigates the potential for monarch larvae to be exposed to Bt pollen by evaluating milkweed and monarch densities in different land habitats available to breeding monarchs (cornfields, cornfield edges, other agricultural fields and nonagricultural areas) and in four different geographical regions representing the different parts of the breeding range of eastern North American monarchs (Minnesota and Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, and Ontario). To evaluate the potential impact of Bt corn on monarch populations, the proportion of the monarch population that overlaps both temporally and spatially with corn pollen during the larval stage was estimated. The sites were monitored weekly, milkweed density was estimated, monarch production form each habitat was estimated, and the phonological overlap of larvae present during corn pollen anthesis was calculated.
1. Relative egg densities among different land habitat types varied by geographical location.
2. In Minnesota/Wisconsin and Ontario larval survival was higher in cornfields than other habitats, and in Iowa survival was higher in corn and nonagricultural habitats than in edge habitats. Although there were differences in mortality early in development, by the later instars survival was similar across habitats.
3. Milkweed density was generally higher in the nonagricultural habitats than cornfields in all regions. When the amount of landscape including agricultural and nonagricultural land is considered, the data suggests that a significant proportion of the monarchs that originate in the Midwestern U.S. come from agricultural habitats.
From this study, the estimates suggest differences within and between regions and indicate that an assessment of risks imposed by Bt corn must consider pollen densities that fall on milkweed within cornfields and indicate the importance of cornfields to monarch populations. Other changes in agricultural practices that affect milkweed density, condition, or monarch survival could also have an effect on risk assessment.
* Stanley-Horn, D.E., Dively, G.P., Hellmich, R.L., Mattila, H.R., Sears, M.K., Rose, R., Jesse, L.C.H., Losey, J.E., Obrycki, J.J., Lewis, J. 2001. Assessing the Impact of Cry1Ab-Expressing Corn Pollen on Monarch Butterfly Larvae in Field Studies. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This research covers five independent field studies conducted in Iowa, Maryland, Ontario and New York to determine the impact of Bt pollen on the survival and growth of monarchs. The approach was to expose larvae to milkweed leaves to Bt and non-Bt pollen.
The studies provide evidence that the amount of pollen deposited on milkweed leaves and Bt (Cry1Ab) protein expression in pollen can impact monarch larvae feeding on milkweed that is associated with Bt corn during anthesis.
To assess environmental risk of Bt corn to monarchs both exposure and hazard must be considered. Therefore, exposure to Bt pollen during pollen dispersal in a field setting, must be factored with the amount of Bt protein (hazard) expressed in pollen for the commercial varieties currently is use.
* Zangeri, A.R., McKenna, D., Wraight, C.L., Carroll, M., Ficarello, P., Warner, R., Berenbaum, M.R. 2001. Effects of Exposure to Event 176 Bacillus thuringiensis Corn Pollen on Monarch and Black Swallowtail Caterpillars Under Field Conditions. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This field study investigates the impact of exposure to pollen from Bt corn containing event 176 on the non-target monarch and black swallowtail larvae. Bt corn event 176* contains a pollen-specific promoter and expresses a high level of Cry1Ab protein in pollen. This hybrid represents less than two percent of corn planted and re-registration has not been applied for this variety
Results suggest that Bt corn incorporating event 176 can have effects on black swallowtail growth and development
Risk assessments on the impact of all Bt corn hybrids on non-targets must be made based on both hazard and exposure to Bt corn event 176 is minimal
* Sears, M.K., Hellmich, R.L., Stanley-Horn, D.E., Oberhauser, K.S., Pleasants, J.M., Mattila, H.R., Siegfried, B.D., Dively, G.P. 2001. Impact of Bt Corn Pollen on Monarch Butterfly Populations: A Risk Assessment. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
This paper provides an assessment of risk of exposure of monarch larvae to Bt corn pollen based on the evidence resulting from the collaborative research of the previously described research from scientists in the United States and Canada. The approach has been used for other investigating effects of pesticides, industrial by-products and other toxicants on non-target species. The approach considers the two estimates needed for a sound risk assessment - hazard and exposure. Estimates on the expression of potential toxicity and the likelihood of exposure to the potential toxicant are both examined.
1. Risk of Bt corn (Bt11, Mon810) to monarchs is low because both hazard is negligible and exposure under field conditions is low.
2. Characterization of acute toxic effects alone indicate that the potential for hazard to monarchs is currently restricted to event 176 hybrids. These hybrids express Cry1Ab protein at a level sufficient to show measurable effects. However, these hybrids have a minor presence in the corn market (<2% of corn acreage), which is rapidly declining.
3. Although monarch populations share their habitat with corn ecosystems to a higher degree than previously documented, the portion of the monarch population that is potentially exposed to toxic levels of Bt corn pollen is negligible and declining as planting event 176 hybrids is phased out.
4. The evidence to support a low risk of Bt corn to monarchs has been collected over a wide geographical area and under both laboratory and field settings. Findings from multiple studies were consistent, even using different methods from one study to another.
The comprehensive body of research collected by scientific experts in the United States and Canada, provides additional evidence that Bt corn poses little if any risk to Monarchs, and affirms the original risk assessment conclusion reached by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The research conducted also provides evidence that any future environmental assessments of risk must be based on appropriate scientific methods of investigation and analysis, and that, when questions arise in laboratory studies, field data may be important to assess real risk.
3. Syngenta no more - Wytze de Lang
(This news was apparently missed by anti-GE campaigners)
I heard it two days ago from a university researcher. He told me that actually employees have been fired already. Also the main reason for closing down Syngenta Mogen is according to him the fact that budgets have dried up. He expects Syngenta to go look for venture capital. Syngenta's other company in the Netherlands, in Enkhuizen is also being cut down. Researchbudgets there have gone down 70%.
(Dutch) Financial Journal
3 september 2001
Syngenta Mogen for Sale
After Pharming the 71 employees of Syngenta Mogen got to hear last thursday that the company is going to be sold. Mother company Syngenta, a merge between pesticide producer Zeneca and seed producer Novartis, will concentrate its biotechnological activities in the UK and the USA. As a result of the merging, Syngenta at the moment is doing double work. The Leiden company therefore has become superfluous for Syngenta. Insecure times start for the employees by the decision to sell Syngenta Mogen. "We have to wait how potential buyers will react" says a spokesperson. It is the intention that the company is being offered for sale including employees and research projects. Whether the patents, in 1997 the main reason for Zeneca to buy Mogen, will also be offered for sale, is at this moment not clear yet. For the spokesperson however, it is beyond doubt that only a big company can buy Syngenta Mogen so it is excluded that the company will continue by itself (as Mogen). "The kind of research that takes place in Leiden is so costly, that can only take place in a big company. It was no accident that previously Mogen was taken over by Zeneca". The Leiden company is specialised in genetic manipulation of food crops. Researchers work for example to introduce genes into potato to make it resistant to late blight and potato fatigue..
4. Video launch - Apologies for cross posting
Zoe Broughton and Hugh Warwick of JustUs Productions, along with the Turning the Tide Programme of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, would like to invite you to the launch screening of the video ‘Nonviolence for a Change’ on Tuesday 25th September 7pm at: Friends House, Euston Road, London.
For more information about the launch and nonviolence training contact Turning the Tide - 020 7663 1064.
Tony Benn said:
"This is a very remarkable film that should be shown in all schools and form the basis of discussions wherever people meet to talk about our future. The emphasis on nonviolence is of the greatest importance, especially after the horrific scenes we have been watching recently on TV from America. The horror there was compounded by hearing those voices raised demanding equally undiscriminating reprisal raids that could cause even more deaths of innocent people. What the world needs now is reassurance to give us a credible hope that peace and justice can be won by co-operation, for without that hope, many will sink into despair."
“This is a beautifully made and inspiring video, which everyone involved in campaigning should see.” George Monbiot - Guardian columnist