Bt or not Bt ... Transgenic Corn vs. Monarch Butterflies

John Losey thought his Nature paper might attract some attention, but not the media "whirlwind" of "a good 60 calls" that disrupted his life for a few days. Losey, assistant professor of entomology at Cornell University, "expected to be busy, but not quite this busy." What prompted the fuss? By claiming that a gene for a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxic protein makes corn pollen poisonous to Monarch butterflies,1 Losey's team ignited another round in the volatile politics of genetically modifi

Barry Palevitz
Jun 6, 1999

John Losey thought his Nature paper might attract some attention, but not the media "whirlwind" of "a good 60 calls" that disrupted his life for a few days. Losey, assistant professor of entomology at Cornell University, "expected to be busy, but not quite this busy." What prompted the fuss? By claiming that a gene for a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxic protein makes corn pollen poisonous to Monarch butterflies,1 Losey's team ignited another round in the volatile politics of genetically modified foods. Scientists, biotech critics, and industry spokespersons exploded with comment. Even Nature Editor Philip Campbell got into the act in an urgent E-mail message to journalists, emphasizing that the BBC notwithstanding, Losey's paper was indeed peer reviewed.

Transgenic corn containing Bt genes is resistant to ravenous larvae of the European corn borer and corn earworm. The insects die when the Bt toxins in corn tissues bind to digestive tract...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?