One piece of pro-GM hype -- that Bt corn is freer of mycotoxins -- taken apart below
"Comparison of fumonisin concentrations in kernels of transgenic Bt maize hybrids and nontransgenic hybrids"
Mary-Howell Martens and Klaas Martens
September 1, 2000
Klaus and Sanet Folks -
When considering any effect that Bt might have on mycotoxin level in corn, it is important to go back to the original source for the data that is being widely quoted, and see what it really said. It is revealing to note that many claims are now being made about this data that the original research DID NOT ADDRESS. The abstract of the original research by Gary P. Munkvold, R.L. Hellmich, P.F. Ross & L.G. Rice is pasted below, the full article from the journal Plant Disease is also available on the Internet.
Also, the current spin is trying to imply that the Bt gene somehow protects against mycotoxins. This is not what the original research seems to indicate - instead, Fusarium level was dependent on the amount of corn borer damage and stress. Certainly corn borer can be controlled by other means, such as crop rotation. Also stress can be caused by other factors, such as drought and heat, upon which the Bt gene would have absolutely no effect!
Some people out there are even trying to extend this research to imply that Bt corn has less mycotoxins than organic corn. As far as we can see, this original research never even considered organic corn. And, knowing the organic system of crop rotation and attention to soil microbial health, it seems likely that organic corn inherently would have a lower chance to develop mycotoxins, indeed, this is contrary to our direct observation in our organic corn. We're seeing much lower levels of Fusarium infection in organic corn than what we see in conventional corn in nearby fields - and we also see much lower levels of insect attack in organic corn. This agrees with Dr. Larry Phelan's work at Ohio State who has shown that organically raised corn seems less attractive to corn borer than conventionally raised corn, probably due to slight chemical differences.
So, any claims about organic corn that are 'based' on Munkvold's research are inappropriate and misleading and are based on invalid assumptions about organic agriculture.
Link this to the research by Dr. James Rahe at Washington State that showed an increase in soil Fusarium levels when soil is treated with Roundup. This agrees with old research, reported by William Albrect, that showed that as soil health deteriorates, Fusarium is an opportunist that fills in the vacuum caused by loss of soil microbial diversity.
Could it be that over a few years of Roundup Ready/Bt corn monoculture in a field, fusarium infection rates will actually increase, leading to higher levels of infection of corn by Fusarium, and higher levels of fuminosin? Now, wouldn't THIS be valuable research to work on right now?
Abstract of Munkvold et al at: http://www.biotech-info.net/fusarium_abstract.html