Earthworms, which play a key role in biogeochemical processes in soil ecosystems, could be negatively affected by the cultivation of transgenic Bt crops. Studies to date have found few effects of Bt maize on earthworm species. If adverse effects occur, they are likely to be chronic or sub-lethal and expressed over large spatial and temporal scales. Our objective in the present study was to investigate potential effects on earthworm populations in soil cultivated with Bt maize in a large multiple-year field study. We surveyed the earthworm populations in 0.16-ha experimental field plots of two varieties of Cry1Ab Bt maize, one variety of Cry3Bb1 Bt maize, and three non-transgenic control varieties cultivated for four years. Four earthworm species were found in our sample: Aporrectodea caliginosa, Aporrectodea trapezoides, Aporrectodea tuberculata (collectively, the A. caliginosa species complex), and Lumbricus terrestris. We found no significant differences in the biomass of juveniles and adults for all four species between Bt and non-Bt maize varieties. From this and previous studies, we conclude that the effects of Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 Bt maize on the A. caliginosa species complex and L. terrestris are small. Nonetheless, general conclusions about the effects of Bt maize on earthworm populations are not warranted due to the small number of species tested. In future laboratory studies, earthworm species should be selected according to their association with a Bt crop and the impact of that species to valued soil ecosystem processes.
Zeilinger, AR, DA Andow, C Zwahlen, G Stotzky. "Earthworm populations in a northern U.S. Cornbelt soil are not affected by long-term cultivation of Bt maize expressing Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 proteins." Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42.8 (2010): 1284–1292. Web. 11 Apr. 2021.
Zeilinger, AR., Andow, DA., Zwahlen, C., & Stotzky, G. (2010). Earthworm populations in a northern U.S. Cornbelt soil are not affected by long-term cultivation of Bt maize expressing Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 proteins. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 42(8), 1284–1292. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.04.004
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