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General Information

Document type
  • Peer-reviewed journal article
GE organism
  • maize
GE trait
  • insect resistance
  • Switzerland


Safety for environment
  • mixed

Effects of transgenic Bt corn litter on the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris

Zwahlen, C; Hilbeck, A; Howald, R; Nentwig, W
Molecular Ecology. 2003 April. 12(4):1077–1086

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PMID: 12753225 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-294X.2003.01799.x ISSN: 0962-1083


A 200-day study was carried out to investigate the impact of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn on immature and adult Lumbricus terrestris in the field and in the laboratory. Another objective of this study was to develop test methods that could be used for standard testing of the impact of transgenic plants on different earthworm species in the field and in the laboratory. For this purpose two different experiments were involved, a laboratory experiment with adult L. terrestris and a field experiment with immature L. terrestris. No lethal effects of transgenic Bt corn on immature and adult earthworms were observed. Immature L. terrestris in the field had a very similar growth pattern when fed either (Bt+) or (Bt-) corn litter. No significant differences in relative weights of (Bt+) and (Bt-) corn-fed adult L. terrestris were observed during the first 160 days of the laboratory trial, but after 200 days adult L. terrestris had a significant weight loss of 18% of their initial weight when fed (Bt+) corn litter compared to a weight gain of 4% of the initial weight of (Bt-) corn-fed earthworms. Further studies are necessary to see whether or not this difference in relative weight was due to the Bt toxin or other factors discussed in the study. Degradation of Cry1Ab toxin in corn residues was significantly slower in the field than at 10 degrees C in the laboratory. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay results indicated that earthworms in both experiments were exposed to the Bt toxin throughout the whole experimental time.


Bacillus thuringiensis; Lumbricus terrestris; risk assessment; soil; testing systems; transgenic plants


Funding source
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Funding country
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Funding type
  • Not reported

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Cite this study


Zwahlen, C, A Hilbeck, R Howald, W Nentwig. "Effects of transgenic Bt corn litter on the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris." Molecular Ecology 12.4 (2003): 1077–1086. Web. 7 Dec. 2023.


Zwahlen, C., Hilbeck, A., Howald, R., & Nentwig, W. (2003). Effects of transgenic Bt corn litter on the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris. Molecular Ecology, 12(4), 1077–1086. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294X.2003.01799.x

Please verify citations before use, citations are automatically generated based on information stored within the GENERA database and therefore may or may not be correct.