The Effects of Bt Corn on Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes Rusticus) Growth and Survival
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- Linn, M.D. & Moore, P.A. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2014) 67: 436. doi:10.1007/s00244-014-0061-3
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Bt crops are one of the most commonly used genetically modified crops worldwide. Bt crops contain a gene that is derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces the Cry1Ab toxin. Bt corn that contains the Cry1Ab toxin is used throughout the Midwest United States to control crop pests such as the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis). Headwater streams in regions known for intensive agriculture receive Bt corn detritus after the fall harvest, which is then consumed by a diverse community of stream invertebrates. The rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) is a common invertebrate detritivore in these headwater streams. Both isogenic and Bt corn were grown under the controlled environmental conditions of a greenhouse and, after senescence, were tested for nutritional equality. Rusty crayfish were exposed to one of several detrital treatments composed of Bt corn, Bt corn plus American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), isogenic corn alone, isogenic corn plus P. occidentalis, or P. occidentalis alone for 8 weeks. Both strains of corn were grown under the controlled environmental conditions in a greenhouse and were tested for nutritional equality after senescence. Crayfish were housed in live streams with a water temperature of 12.8 °C and a 12:12 h light-to-dark photoperiod. Survival and growth of animals within each experimental treatment were monitored each week. After 8 weeks of exposure, there was no statistically significant difference in growth between crayfish in Bt and isogenic treatments. However, survivorship was 31 % lower in the Bt treatment compared with the isogenic treatment. These results suggest that the Bt corn and isogenic corn were of equivalent nutritional value but that Bt corn does have a toxic effect on rusty crayfish during long-term exposure.