US Science Panel Says More Data Needed on GE Crop Safety


US science panel says more data needed on bio-crop safety
USA: March 19, 2001

WASHINGTON - An independent science advisory panel on Thursday
told the Environmental Protection Agency more studies are needed to
pinpoint how long bioengineered cotton and corn residue lingers in the
soil and whether it poses any environmental risk.

The panel of two dozen biologists and entomologists issued a 78-page
report addressing various technical issues about Bt crops for the EPA.
The EPA asked for the guidance as it considers whether to renew the
registration of Bt corn, cotton and potato varieties that were approved
six years ago. The registrations are all set to expire in September.
Bt crops are engineered to include the bacillus thuringiensis bacterium,
which occurs naturally in soil and acts as a pesticide.

The EPA will publish its proposed decision on Bt crop re-registration
applications for public comment later this year.

The science panel, led by Stephen Roberts of the University of Florida,
said more data was needed to determine how much of the unique Cry proteins
from Bt crops remain in the soil after harvest, and whether they are harmful.
"These studies are important to assess long-term environmental effects
of Bt-containing crops," the report said. "It would be prudent to determine
under operational field conditions in different geographical regions and
soil types, the extent to which Cry proteins accumulate in soil," it added.
Some laboratory studies have shown Cry proteins can linger in soil
microcosms for as long as 234 days.

But the need for such studies should not delay the EPA from acting
on the Bt crop re-registration applications, the report said.
The panel of scientists also said more information was needed to
evaluate if Monarch butterflies are adversely affected by Bt corn.
The panel said it was "divided" over the EPA's decision last autumn to
disregard an Iowa State University laboratory study that found Monarch
caterpillars were seven times more likely to die when they ate milkweed
plants dusted with pollen from Bt corn. The EPA rejected the study
findings, saying it did not fairly represent actual field conditions.
"While the agency's assessment that additional field studies are
important, lab studies may also be important to consider," the report said.
The panel's report suggested that the EPA launch studies to assess
Monarch butterfly deaths at different times during the growing season and at
different life cycle stages, and to identify any other kinds of butterflies
that may be at risk from Bt corn pollen.

More data is also needed to assess whether farmers using Bt crops are
using fewer pesticides, the scientists said. A copy of the report was posted
on the EPA's Internet site at

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