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LADYBUG, QUICKLY FLY AWAY HOME! (fwd)
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Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 08:55:23 AST
From: "Daniel D. Worley" <email@example.com>
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: LADYBUG, QUICKLY FLY AWAY HOME!
The following article is posted with permission of the author; Claire
Gilbert, Ph.D. For permission to copy or distribute further, contact Dr.
LADYBUG, QUICKLY FLY AWAY HOME!
By Claire Gilbert, Ph.D.
HALF MOON BAY, California, October 24, 1997 -- Some ladybugs in
Scotland have become very important this week because they may be
the first proof that non-target species can be harmed by transgenic
crops. Transgenic bio-engineering involves inserting genes into
one species from another in order to gain some advantage.
Ladybugs -- or "ladybirds" if you are European -- have always been
considered friendly insects in the garden and on the farm. They
eat many insects that are harmful to crops and flowers. Ladybugs
are part of the natural system.
The lifespan of ladybugs was reduced to half when they ate aphids
that had fed on genetically altered potatoes in Scotland, according
to a London Times article (10/22/97) by Science Editor, Nigel
Hawkes. The ladybugs also laid fewer eggs.
Fears of genetic engineering critics were fanned by the news that
ladybugs were damaged by eating insects feeding on altered
Among the critics' concerns are: that non-target organisms may be
affected by pesticide genes put into plants; that beneficial
insects might be harmed; that unknown consequences may occur; and
that ecosystems may be damaged.
Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, says that
genetically engineered potatoes and corn produce their own
pesticide. These vegetables, now on the market, contain a
bacterial gene normally found in soil, called "bacillus
thuringiensis," or Bt. In altered potatoes and corn, Bt creates a
toxin in the plant itself to kill insects.
Agronomists are concerned that by making Bt an integral part of
plants, the evolution of Bt resistant insects will speed up
enormously. When used alone, as it occurs in nature, Bt is
considered among the safest insect controllers.
The effects on humans of eating altered crops which contain Bt is
unknown. The companies which have pioneered in inserting foreign
genes into plants have successfully made the claim to regulatory
agencies that the food plants are substantially equivalent to
unaltered ones. The companies have been able to fast track their
products to market, bypassing lengthy safety testing.
Scientists in Scotland now urge caution in the introduction of
genetically modified crops after discovering that they could harm
ladybugs. Nick Birch and a team from the Scottish Crop Research
Institute in Dundee are responsible for discovering the reduced
fertility and lifespan of the ladybugs.
The potato plant in question had been altered to produce a natural
insecticide that deterred aphids from eating them. Non-potato
genetic material is inserted into potatoes. While this did indeed
discourage aphids, the reduction was not complete. The number of
aphids on the potatoes was reduced by only 50% so that ladybugs
were needed to eat the remaining aphids.
With the large number of transgentic crops being planted in the
U.S. and the rest of the world, many unforseen consequences may be
released. In the annual report of the Institute, the team that
worked on the ladybug research said the deleterious effects on the
ladybugs suggested that genetically altered crops could have
Claire Gilbert may be contacted at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
LADYBUG, QUICKLY FLY AWAY HOME! Part 2
By Claire Gilbert, Ph.D.
HALF MOON BAY, California, October 27, 1997 -- I called the
Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee, Scotland, and got more
of the story. Nick Birch, the researcher named in the London Times
article, was not in his office at the time of my phone call. I
spoke with an entomologist, Stuart Gordon, who shares an office
The potatoes that adversely affected the ladybugs/ladybirds
were transgenic. Genes from snowdrop lectin had been inserted in
them. Gordon did not know the name of the poison, however. He was
not directly involved in that project.
Birch, et al., plan to publish their research according to
How did it get in the London Times? The Annual Report of the
Institude describes research projects conducted. The London Times
picked up the story from the annual report.
Gordon is passing a message on to Birch to send me the report.
It has more information than Gordon, himself, could provide me.
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