WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government has decided to allow farmers to continue growing genetically engineered corn after concluding that the crop isn't harming monarch butterflies.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it is renewing for seven years registrations for varieties of biotech corn that produce their own toxin to kill an insect pest, a moth called the European corn borer. The crop is known as Bt corn for a bacterium gene that it contains.
``Bt corn has been evaluated thoroughly by EPA, and we are confident that it does not pose risks to human health or to the environment,'' said Steve Johnson, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.
Biotech seed companies are being required to monitor use of the crops to ensure that they do not lead to insect resistance or have unexpected effects on human health or the environment.
The companies will be required to report annually on the effectiveness of programs that are designed to prevent the development of insects that are resistant to the corn's toxin.
Farmers are supposed to plant some conventional corn near the biotech acreage to prevent the development of resistance.
Insects naturally become immune to the toxin as they are exposed to it, but the trait won't be passed onto successive generations if they mate with moths that are susceptible to the poison. The plantings of conventional corn are designed to ensure that there are plenty of those nonresistant moths around.
``The safeguards incorporated into these registrations will ensure that farmers can continue to use an effective, low-risk pest control alternative, which helps to protect the environment by reducing the amount of conventional pesticides used,'' Johnson said.