ITHACA, N.Y. -- Two prominent entomologists, one from Cornell University, warn that three recent studies on the effects of genetically engineered crops have distorted the debate about engineered crops and that this could have "profound consequences" for science and public policy.
The article, "False reports and the ears of men," in the latest issue of Nature Biotechnology, is authored by Anthony M. Shelton, professor of entomology at Cornell's New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Richard T. Roush of the University of Adelaide, Australia. They urge that the public should not be swayed "by laboratory reports that, when looked at with a critical eye, may not have any reality in the field or even in the laboratory."
The first of the three studies they comment on was led by John E. Losey, Cornell assistant professor of entomology. This study of the effect of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn on the monarch butterfly "can only be considered a preliminary laboratory study," they write.
In the May 20 issue of Nature, Losey and his colleagues reported that pollen from commercial corn, genetically engineered to produce a bacterial toxin to protect it against European corn borers, kills monarch butterfly larvae in laboratory tests. While Shelton and Roush note that this result was expected under such laboratory test conditions, they question whether this test was realistic.
"If I went to a movie and bought a hundred pounds of salted popcorn, because I
like salted popcorn, and then I ate those the salted popcorn all at once, I'd
probably die. Eating that much salted popcorn simply is not a real-world
situation, but if I died it may be reported that salted popcorn was lethal,"
Shelton said in an interview. "The same thing holds true for monarch
butterflies and pollen. Scientists have a duty to be incredibly responsible for
developing realistic studies. Scientists need to make assessments that are
Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Cornell University News Service