, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1-12,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Jun 2009

Is the German suspension of MON810 maize cultivation scientifically justified?

Abstract

We examined the justifications invoked by the German government in April 2009 to suspend the cultivation of the genetically modified maize varieties containing the Bt insect-resistance trait MON810. We have carried out a critical examination of the alleged new data on a potential environmental impact of these varieties, namely two scientific papers describing laboratory force-feeding trials on ladybirds and daphnia, and previous data on Lepidoptera, aquatic and soil organisms. We demonstrate that the suspension is based on an incomplete list of references, ignores the widely admitted case-by-case approach, and confuses potential hazard and proven risk in the scientific procedure of risk assessment. Furthermore, we did not find any justification for this suspension in our extensive survey of the scientific literature regarding possible effects under natural field conditions on non-target animals. The vast majority of the 41 articles published in 2008 and 2009 indicate no impact on these organisms and only two articles indicate a minor effect, which is either inconsistent during the planting season or represents an indirect effect. Publications from 1996 to 2008 (376 publications) and recent meta-analyses do not allow to conclude on consistent effects either. The lower abundance of some insects concerns mainly specialized enemies of the target pest (an expected consequence of its control by Bt maize). On the contrary, Bt maize have generally a lower impact than insecticide treatment. The present review demonstrates that the available meta-knowledge on Cry1Ab expressing maize was ignored by the German government which instead used selected individual studies.