Powerful Insecticide From
GM Corn Released into Soil

From Rex Warren ACTA

Researchers at New York University have shown that BT corn, the genetically modified seed variety which is resistant to corn borer pests, releases an insecticide through its roots into the soil. The powerful toxin remains in the soil as it is not easily broken down. It retains its insecticide properties which could help to control pests or promote insects resistant to the pesticide - the scientists aren't sure which.
"Further investigations will be necessary to shed light on what might happen underground," Dr Guenther Stotzky and his colleagues said in a report published this week in the science journal Nature.
Their work is the first to show that the toxin from BT corn can seep into the soil. The researchers describe their findings as "surprising and unexpected", raising fresh fears about the environmental impact of such crops. The concern is that beneficial soil organisms might be killed and that insects living in the soil might become resistant to the poisons.
Several crops, from maize to corn and potatoes, have been genetically modified to kill insect pests using a gene derived from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Concerns about the impact of such crops on the environment were triggered earlier this year when it was found that monarch butterflies had died after feeding on milkweed dusted with pollen from GM corn.
Professor Stozky of New York University's laboratory of microbial ecology, who has led the research, says that the monarch research showed that the toxin was released from the pollen. "Now we have found it is also continuously released from the roots into the soil. The fact that the toxin is released from the roots was unexpected," he says. Because the roots are constantly leaking the toxin, there is also the risk that pests in the soil might rapidly become immune to the poison triggering new, resistant strains.


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