Fractured News 

Putting it together for ... Biodiversity

How are the organisms below playing a role in the prices you will pay for products containing processed corn?

 European Corn Borer

Ostrinia nubialis


Zea mays (Bt-strain)


Bacillus thuringiensis

Monarch Butterfly

Danaus plexippus

 Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca

The assignment here is to describe the impact each of the organisms above has on the price of corn products you are likely to use. (FYI: Processed corn includes corn syrup, a basic ingredient for carbonated beverages, and corn starch, found in puddings and bakery items.) Like all "Fractured News" projects, you may use the items offered in "Bits and Pieces" as well as add your own research to explain why these specific plants, animals, and bacteria are affecting the corn growers and refiners here in the U.S.

This is a short paper (500 words) due in one week. You should send the paper by email with "Fractured News-Biodiversity" in the subject line. Images are welcome, but please remember that they must be fully cited and be used to further your explanation.

Bits and Pieces

 Informational items are provided below. Each item is color coded to an organism above. Gray indicates a general news item that may apply to one or more of these organisms.

 The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubialis, is one of the major corn pests.

(Cooperative Extension Services, UIUC, College of Agriculture.)

 In the 80 million acres of corn planted in the U.S. this year, almost 22 million acres will be Bt-corn.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Volume 77(21): p. 7)

The Archer Midland Daniels Company (ADM) in Decatur, Illinois guarantees the food products it processes for Europe will not include genetically modified corn.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(22): p. 5)

 Monarch caterpillars feed solely on milkweed foliage, flower buds, and milky juice. which make the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to birds and other predators.

(Audubon Society.)

 Pesticide use in Mexico has increased dramatically in the past five years.


 An environmental impact of chemical pesticides used to control the European corn borer is the death of nearly all the caterpillars within the crop area during the treatment period.

(Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, D.C.)

 Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that has genes that produce a toxin that kills the European corn borer.

 Chemical insecticides can be used cost effectively to control the damage to both young and older corn plants by the European corn borer.

(Cooperative Extension Services, UIUC, College of Agriculture.)

 Last year U.S. farmers lost about $200 million in sales of corn to European markets because the European Council has not approved most varieties of genetically modified corn.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(22): p. 5)

A winter location for Monarch butterflies is in the central highlands of Mexico.

(Audubon Society)

 The milky juice of the common milkweed makes the larvae and adult butterflies which feed on it toxic to birds and other predators.

(Audubon Society.)

 The Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is found throughout North America except in the far north.

(Audubon Society)

 Nearly all of the U.S. corn refiners have announced that they will not accept any varieties of genetically modified corn that have not been approved in Europe.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(22): p. 5)

 Most of the agricultural corn crops are producing pollen during the time Monarch caterpillars are feeding.


 In a recent article from, researchers at Cornell University in New York have discovered that nearly half of the Monarch caterpillars who were fed on milkweed leaves dusted with the pollen from genetically engineered Bt-corn die. In this experiment conducted by John E. Losey, a Cornell entomologist, the amount of pollen added to the milkweed leaves was similar to the amounts found on milkweed plants near cornfields during the pollen production by the corn. Caterpillars ate less and grew more slowly when Bt-corn pollen was present than those offered milkweed leaves with other corn pollen.

(Nature. 1999. Vol. 399: p. 214)

 Concern for butterflies has caused the European Commission, the executive organization for the European Union, to halt the processing of approvals for genetically modified corn.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(22): p. 5)

 Monarch butterflies are migratory and can fly up to 2000 miles in a year.

(Audubon Society)

 The common milkweed is found in old fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas near agricultural fields.

(Audubon Society)

 Monsanto, a producer of Bt-corn, is participating in an industrial and academic project to study the impacts of Bt-corn pollen on Monarch caterpillars in the field.

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(21): p. 7)

 The larvae begin tunneling into the stalks about 10 days after hatching, so application of pesticides must be when egg masses are noticed.

(Cooperative Extension Services, UIUC, College of Agriculture.)

 The chairman of Cargill in Minneapolis states that genetically modified crops will be the "wave of the future." Genetically modified crops will need to be labeled since "crops with special end-user traits such as the ability to fight cancer and heart disease will have to be marketed separately."

(Chemical and Engineering News. 1999. Vol. 77(22): p. 5)

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