Three Years Later: Genetically Engineered Corn and the Monarch Butterfly Controversy

  • June 10, 2002

Three years ago this month, a short research article published in the scientific journal Nature saying that monarch butterflies were threatened by genetically modified corn caused major controversy and placed the insect virtually overnight squarely in the middle of a major public policy battle over the future of agricultural biotechnology. This retrospective of the monarch butterfly/GM corn controversy was released by the Pew Initiative on Food & Biotechnology.

We review the chronology of the monarch butterfly controversy from the perspective of a number of key players. We also provide a brief review of the current state of scientific knowledge on the issue—what is now known, and what questions remain.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology believes that this retrospective of the monarch butterfly controversy will both help promote understanding of the issue and stimulate broader discussion about how this issue unfolded and how innovative methods were used to ultimately resolve some key issues in this debate.