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Does transgenic maize cause
the death of the Monarch butterfly?

The European Union blocks importation
by Roberto Meucci

Maize is one of the plants which for thousands of years has contributed to feed the human race, and which still provides nourishment for hundreds of millions of the inhabitants of our planet. In many countries it still constitutes the basic foodstuff, without which entire populations would die of hunger.

A field planted with maize in Mozambique
(CatPress photo archive © )

A number of scientists have succeeded in modifying the DNA of various plants, producing transgenic species which are resistant to the piraide, the major parasite which is the cause of the destruction of 20% of the harvest. In fact, once this parasite penetrates the leaves, it is resistant to known anti-parasitics. What the researchers did was to extract a gene from the bacillus thuringiensis and insert it into the maize chromosome. Since this gene produces a protein which is toxic for the plant parasite, the cultivators no longer need to resort to pesticides.

But the European Union has blocked the cultivation of ten species of genetically modified seeds, after observation of an extremely disturbing effect: the pollen of the transgenic maize appears to cause the death of the monarch butterfly, which with its 10 cm wingspan is one of the most widely admired lepidoptera in the world. The discovery, made by Cornell University in the USA, naturally does not meet with the agreement of the producers of the transgenic plant which is cultivated in the United States and in Canada. The European Union has taken the decision to make further studies on the maize in question, which could take up to four years, a state of events which is obviously very worrying for the manufacturers of the transgenic product.

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