Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published findings of a study conducted by Monsanto’s research division proving RNA from genetically engineered corn does not impact honeybees.
Monsanto’s research division, the Non-target Organism Lead-Biotechnology Platform, did a study on one of its products, MON 87411, which protects corn against corn rootworm by producing a double-stranded RNA that targets the Snf7 gene ortholog in corn rootworm (DvSnf7). Pests in the corn rootworm family are estimated to cause $1 billion in yield loss annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So Monsanto sought to create a product that would eliminate the pests without harming pollinators.
Pamela Bachman, Monsanto Senior Ecotoxicologist, works in the group in Monsanto's regulatory division that conducts the tests on the effects of its environmental products on the environment.
“We have new products we are going to get registered with the different agencies because we need to assess what the potential adverse effects on the environment (are)," Bachman told EP News Wire. "Honey bees are a big one for us to focus on to make sure we’re not going to have adverse effects.”
For the study, the research was based on the mode of action of the DvSnf7 RNA in western corn rootworm. The study was designed to last long enough to give ample time to evaluate the potential adverse effects on larval survival and development through to adult survival. Testing was conducted with higher concentrations of DvSnf7 RNA than found naturally in the environmental in maize pollen.
The study showed “no adverse effects were observed in either larval or adult honey bees at these high exposure levels, providing a large margin of safety between environmental exposure levels and no-observed–adverse-effect levels.”
The honey bee is the most important managed pollinator species worldwide and plays a critical role in pollinating many crops. According to the study, “the economic value of honey bee pollination for agriculture has been estimated to be greater than $14 million in the United States and $215 billion worldwide.”
The decline in bee population globally has raised concern that industrial agriculture, bee-killing pesticides and climate change are contributing to the demise of bees. Monsanto’s role in agricultural changes and biotechnology products has made the company controversial to many.
But Camille Scott, manager of scientific communications at Monsanto, said the company aims to increase crop yield for farmers by eradicating pests that ruin crops.
“We study a lot of different ways to help farmers combat bugs, disease and changes in weather — some of the biggest hurdles they have to face each growing season,” Scott told EP News Wire. “From a consumer lens these things are important just because we do have a growing population to feed on the same footprint of land. So finding environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions like these to combat a crop problem are of utmost importance for our growers and then in turn, for our consumers.”
Scott said it’s important to consumers that Monsanto is finding ways to solve agriculture problems in a way that is friendly to the environment and friendly to pollinators like bees.