The Post may have unwittingly contributed to the "escalating uncertainty over genetically engineered crops" by citing out of context the findings of the now- infamous Cornell University study of monarch butterfly caterpillars ["Food War Claims Its Casualties," front page, Sept. 12].
Yes, some monarch butterfly caterpillars died when raised on milkweed dusted with pollen from corn engineered to produce a naturally occurring insecticide. But one of the Cornell researchers urged "caution in over-interpreting" the results, according to a press release by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
First, the statement noted, the monarch caterpillars had no choice but to eat the pollen-dusted milkweed in the laboratory experiment. "In the field the caterpillars may move about and avoid ingesting pollen." Nor would they have to move far. According to the release, pollen density decreases "by 90 percent three meters away from the edge of the cornfield." Further, because corn plants "shed" pollen for a short five- to 10-day period, "the majority of monarch larvae feed on milkweed when corn pollen is not present."
Most important, the butterflies were expected to die as the pollen was modified to include a naturally occurring pesticide toxic to the monarch caterpillars. In other words, it worked as intended. Unfortunately, none of this crucial information is getting into the news stories about genetically engineered foods. Once again, the anti-choice activists are succeeding in twisting credible research into junk science in an effort to advance their political agenda.