Abstract

Intensification in agriculture affects many insect species, including butterflies. Insect-resistant crops, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize, which produces a toxin active against Lepidoptera, are an alternative to insecticide sprays. Genetically modified crops are regulated in most countries and require an environmental risk assessment. In the European Union, such assessments include the use of simulation models to predict the effects on nontarget Lepidoptera (NTL). To support the assessment of protected NTL, we extended an individual-based, stochastic, spatially explicit mathematical model (LepiX) to include a wider range of exposure scenarios, a species-sensitivity distribution, and an option for repeated exposure of individuals. We applied the model to transgenic maize DAS-1507, which expresses a high concentration of Bt toxin in pollen that may be consumed by NTL larvae on their host plants nearby. Even in the most conservative scenario without repeated exposure, mortality estimates for highly sensitive species ranged from 41% to 6% at distances of 10-1000 m from the nearest maize field. Repeated exposure can cause additional mortality and thus is relevant for the overall risk assessment. Uncertainties in both exposure and ecotoxicity estimates strongly influenced the predicted mortalities. Care should be taken to include these uncertainties in the model scenarios used for decision-making. In accordance with other modeling results, our simulations demonstrated that mean mortality may not be safe for protected species. With its high pollen expression, DAS-1507 maize may pose risks to sensitive and protected butterfly and moth species that may be difficult to manage. High expression of Bt toxin in pollen is unnecessary for controlling target pests. Consequently, we suggest that Bt maize with high pollen expression not be cultivated in regions where protected butterflies are to be conserved.

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