Transgenic Research

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 727–744 | Cite as

Occurrence and field densities of Coleoptera in the maize herb layer: implications for Environmental Risk Assessment of genetically modified Bt-maize

  • Stefan RauschenEmail author
  • Frank Schaarschmidt
  • Achim Gathmann
Original Paper


Beetles (Coleoptera) are a diverse and ecologically important group of insects in agricultural systems. The Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of genetically modified Bt-crop varieties with insect resistances thus needs to consider and assess the potential negative impacts on non-target organisms belonging to this group. We analysed data gathered during 6 years of field-release experiments on the impact of two genetically modified Bt-maize varieties (Ostrinia-resistant MON810 and Diabrotica-resistant MON88017) on the occurrence and field densities of Coleoptera, especially the two families Coccinellidae and Chrysomelidae. Based on a statistical analysis aimed at establishing whether Bt-maize varieties are equivalent to their near-isogenic counterparts, we discuss the limitations of using field experiments to assess the effects of Bt-maize on these two beetle families. The densities of most of the beetle families recorded in the herb layer were very low in all growing seasons. Coccinellidae and Chrysomelidae were comparatively abundant and diverse, but still low in numbers. Based on their role as biological control agents, Coccinellidae should be a focus in the ERA of Bt-plants, but given the large natural variability in ladybird densities in the field, most questions need to be addressed in low-tier laboratory tests. Chrysomelidae should play a negligible role in the ERA of Bt-plants, since they occur on-crop as secondary pests only. Species occurring off-crop, however, can be addressed in a similar fashion as non-target Lepidoptera in Cry1Ab expressing Bt-maize.


Environmental Risk Assessment Coleoptera Genetically modified Bt-maize MON88017 MON810 



Both field-release experiments were conducted under research grants by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant numbers 0312631 and 0313279), whose support is thankfully acknowledged. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful and helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Rauschen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frank Schaarschmidt
    • 2
  • Achim Gathmann
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant PhysiologyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Natural Sciences, Institute of BiostatisticsLeibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental ResearchRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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