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NEWS RELEASE

September 2001


AGRICULTURE, VETERINARY MEDICINE AND NATURAL RESOURCES NEWS FROM IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

RESEARCH FOCUSES ON MONARCH AND BIOTECH CORN
A series of six articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents evidence that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn pollen has little to no effect on Monarch butterfly larvae. Lead authors of two of the papers -- John Pleasants, zoology/genetics, and Rick Hellmich, USDA collaborator-entomology -- are Iowa State University researchers. Hellmich's paper focused on the relative toxicity of Bt pollen to Monarch butterfly larvae. He found that pollen densities of more than 1,000 grains/cm(2) on milkweed leaves were needed to see a small effect on Monarch caterpillars. Pleasant's study addressed the density of pollen from Bt corn on milkweed leaves in or near cornfields at different times during pollination. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on milkweed leaves. He found the average pollen density within a cornfield was 171 grains/cm(2), below the toxicity threshold. Both researchers also worked on various aspects of the other four papers, which are the result of a two-year research project conducted at several universities and funded by the USDA and an industry group. The papers were posted on the web on Sept. 14. Their publication date in print is expected to be Oct. 2. Copies of the six papers, as well as their abstracts, are available at http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml. Contact Hellmich, (515) 294-4509; Pleasants, (515) 294-7204; or Skip Derra, ISU News Service, (515) 294-4917.


BIOTECH CROPS: ANY EFFECTS ON MILK QUALITY?
Ask any dairy farmer whose cows have grazed in a patch of garlic - what cows eat can affect milk quality. So it's not surprising that farmers wonder about genetically modified crops. "Many have asked whether feeding biotech crops will allow others to differentiate their milk from milk sold by producers who don't feed biotech crops," said Marjorie Faust, ISU extension dairy specialist. Can a marketer, retailer or exporter check milk to see whether cows have been exposed to biotech plants? Faust examined the question in a study in which cows were fed rations containing either traditional corn or corn containing the Bt gene for insect resistance. Milk samples were taken for two weeks, then analyzed. The results detected no transgenic proteins. "Our work, as well as results from other studies, have detected no differences in composition of milk when cows are fed biotech crops," Faust said. "So, for today's roster of biotech crops, milk from cows fed biotech and nonbiotech crops can't be differentiated." Contact Faust, Animal Science, (515)294-2793, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706.


WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD, CONSUMERS NEED MORE THAN FACTS
"Just the facts, ma'am," declared Joe Friday on "Dragnet." But research by an Iowa State sociologist shows "just the facts" often isn't good enough for consumers. Steve Sapp, with colleagues Eric Abbott and Lulu Rodriguez, surveyed households in the Twin Cities during a time when irradiated beef patties were being test-marketed. Some of the homes received packets with information from proponents and opponents of irradiated food. An initial survey found that those receiving the packets had more concerns about food safety than people who didn't receive packets. However, a follow-up survey three months later showed fewer concerns and a rebound in trust levels. "The opinions of people who got the information packet had become significantly more favorable toward food irradiation," Sapp says. "This was primarily related to their level of trust in scientists and government agencies responsible for food safety, but also related to the influences of friends and neighbors and their sense that food irradiation was compatible with their values." Sapp said the research proves giving consumers just the facts won't convince them to embrace complex, controversial technology. This fall Sapp will conduct a nationwide consumer survey on biotechnology. Contact Sapp, (515) 294-1403, or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.


PROPOSED CENTER'S GOAL: REDUCING CRASHES WITH DEER
A proposed national research center would aim to reduce the number of collisions between deer and vehicles. Brent Danielson, associate professor of animal ecology at Iowa State, is a member of a working group that is studying creation of the center. The group was organized by the Sand County Foundation of Madison, Wis., a nonprofit corporation that promotes sound management practices on private and public lands. Danielson has conducted studies identifying where many deer-vehicle collisions occur and recommending technologies to reduce the number. Some of his results are being implemented by communities and state agencies, including the Illinois Department of Transportation. The proposed center would help identify funding sources for research; establish a clearinghouse for disseminating research information; and provide education on preventing deer-vehicle accidents. Contact Danielson, (515) 294-5248, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706.



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