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From our Organic BFA magazine.

 

Agriculture: Chemically treated Bt corn seed kills honey bees; GM mosquito fears


US advocate for family-scale farming The Cornucopia Institute says that Bt corn seed treated with chemical insecticides called neonicotinoids is not only killing off corn insects but also honey bees and is just as harmful as the insecticides they are replacing.

One of the most frequently mentioned benefits of genetically modified crops is a reduction in chemical pesticide use on corn and cotton. But Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist, Food and Agriculture for the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA points out that these chemicals typically kill not only pest insects but also beneficial insects that help control pests or pollinate crops. They may also harm other friendly organisms like birds.

“Corn engineered to kill certain insect pests, such as Bt corn, has mainly resulted in the replacement of one group of chemical insecticides with another,” he says. “Previously, corn may have been sprayed, or soil treated with chemical insecticides to control several insect pests, especially corn rootworm.

“But those who tout the benefits of GMO fail to mention that virtually all corn seed today is treated with chemical insecticides called neonicotinoids to ward off several corn insects not well controlled by Bt toxins. And while almost all corn is now treated with insecticide via the seed, substantial amounts of corn went untreated by insecticides prior to Bt.

“A new publication by several academic entomologists on the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bees shows that such seed treatment may be having serious repercussions. The amount of the insecticide found in and around corn fields is near the range known to kill honey bees, and dead bees collected near treated fields contained insecticide residues.”

GMWatch reported that a British biotech lab Oxitec released huge numbers of GM mosquitoes in Malaysia to combat dengue fever, but the female yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) can transmit the dengue virus. The GM mosquitoes were first released in 2009 as a trial on Grand Cayman. Oxitec now wants to release a GM cabbage moth in England.

In other GM news, in a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, February 2012 Volume 107, the findings contradicted a “no adverse health effects” finding in a short-term, 31-day study of pigs fed Monsanto’s Bt maize. The researchers noted a lower feed conversion ratio and intestinal changes in the pigs fed on the Bt maize.
 

Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 (Archive on Wednesday, February 29, 2012)
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