Bt maize has higher lignin content.
Maize (Zea mays L.).
crylAb gene for producing insecticidal delta-endotoxin from
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The gene was fused to the cauliflower
mosaic virus (CaMV-35S) promoter so that the gene would be
expressed in all parts of the plant. The researchers tested different
commercial varieties, including MON810 (trade name: YieldGard®), which
is the main variety of Bt maize on the market.
Produce transgenic maize (called "Bt maize" or "Bt corn")
that produces a toxin that can kill the larvae of the European corn
borer and other insect pests. In these two studies, the researchers
investigated whether the genetic manipulation may have affected other
characteristics of the plant.
Bt maize does produce the toxin and has been grown on millions
of acres of farmland since 1996.
The stems of Bt maize plants have higher lignin content than normal
(isogenic) controls: 18-25% higher according to Poerschmann et al. (2005);
33-97% higher according to Saxena and Stotzky (2001).
The question arises whether the higher lignin content, which makes
the stems woodier, may affect their digestibility in cattle or pigs,
to which maize stems are fed. What other biochemical pathways may have
been repressed or altered as a result of the increased production of
lignin is unknown.
Poerschmann, J., A. Gathmann, J. Augustin, U. Langer et
al. (2005). "Molecular Composition of Leaves and Stems of Genetically
Modified Bt and Near-Isogenic Non-Bt Maize - Characterization of Lignin
Patterns," J. Environ. Quality vol. 34, pp. 1508-18.
Saxena, D. and G. Stotzky (2001). "Bt Corn has a Higher Lignin
Content than Non-Bt Corn," American Journal of Botany
vol. 88: pp. 1704-6.
Poerschmann et al.: UFZ-Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig-Halle,
Germany; RWTH Aachen, Germany; Leibniz-Center for Agricultural Landscape
and Land Use Research, Muncheberg, Germany; Department of Chemistry,
University of Waterloo, Canada.
Saxena and Stotzky: Laboratory of Microbial Ecology, New York University,
Poerschmann et al.: German Research Council (DFG).
Saxena and Stotzky: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (partial).
Bt maize is on the market under a number of brand names (YieldGard®
is the most widely used variety) and has been commercially grown since
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