GM crops `only kill harmful insects'
Thursday 26 August 1999
Scientists found that GM crops designed to kill insect pests had no effect on beneficial insects, which contradicts work published earlier this year showing that GM pollen can harm the endangered monarch butterfly.
The publicly-funded scientists from the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR) in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, showed that although GM oilseed rape can kill pests such as the larvae of the diamondback moth, it was harmless against useful insects, notably the parasitic wasp that attacks the moth larvae.
"One of the biggest worries of transgenic [GM] plants is not only how they affect pretty things like the monarch butterfly but how they affect the complex interactions in the environment," said Dr Guy Poppy, who led the research team at the IACR.
The researchers believe that GM crops might work more harmoniously with beneficial insects compared with insecticides which kill everything.
More realistic experiments that enable crop pests and beneficial insects to behave more naturally show that GM crops are less likely than chemical sprays to damage beneficial wildlife, they say.
The team investigated the effects of allowing the diamondback moth larvae to feed off oilseed rape that was genetically modified with a toxin derived from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
Results of the experiment, published in the journal Nature, show that parasitic wasps which feed off the moth larvae died along with the larvae when they were forced to eat the GM oilseed rape. However, the scientists showed that this was not a direct result of the wasps eating the toxin of the GM plant, but merely a consequence of having their food source destroyed.
Wasps that parasitised a strain of diamond-back moth that is resistant to Bt toxin were not harmed, even though the larvae were heavily contaminated with the Bt toxin.
In another experiment, the scientists showed that GM crops did not affect the parasitic wasps ability to locate and feed off the moth larvae.
Dr Poppy said the results indicate that pesticide resistance will be less of a problem with GM crops because they still enable beneficial insects, such as the parasitic wasp, to survive.
"With insecticide spraying you would have a worse problem because you would kill beneficial insects and not kill some of the pests that develop resistance." he said.
GM protesters have argued that British "farm-scale" trials, in which sites of several acres are being planted with GM oilseed rape and maize to assess the environmental impact, could endanger such species directly - meaning that simply by running the trials, the environment would be irreversibly affected. Some of the protesters have been arrested for damaging several of the trial crops.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...