Underlying reasons of the controversy over adverse effects of Bt toxins on lady beetle and lacewing larvae
1 Institute of Integrative Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Universitätstrasse 16, Zurich, 8092, Switzerland
2 Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Ackerstrasse, Frick, 5070, Switzerland
Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:9 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-9Published: 15 February 2012
We outline important underlying reasons that fuel the decades-long controversy over adverse effects of Bt toxins expressed in genetically modified plants on beneficial, nontarget organisms. Inconsistent evaluation standards and asymmetrical levels of scrutiny applied to studies reporting significant adverse effects compared to those finding no adverse effects are described using the examples of the green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) and the two-spotted lady beetle (Adalia bipunctata). Additionally, the chosen style and concerted nature of the rather confrontational counter study and responses in the lady beetle cases bear striking similarities to other reported examples in the field of biosafety/risk science of genetically modified plants and to other fields of applied industrial techno-science that suggest deeper issues that go well beyond science. We call for a constructive and respectful scientific discourse where moving the frontiers of our collective knowledge forward takes center stage. Reported phenomena based on robust data must not be rejected or delegitimized on their being surprising and lacking an explained mechanism at the time of their discovery. Exploring mechanisms often requires entirely different expertise and methodologies than those of the discoverers. In particular, in biosafety/risk sciences, plurality of arguments and critical research approaches have to be embraced and actively encouraged rather than discredited or even silenced if we are to learn our 'late lessons' from past technology introductions.