8 March 2011 -- Sebastian Höss of the Institute for Biodiversity in Regensburg has been studying nematodes in
agricultural soils for years. Nematodes are very important for soil fertility. In one research
project, Sebastian Höss and his team are therefore investigating whether nematodes are
sensitive to a particular type of GM maize. No indications of sensitivity have been found so far.
The research acitivties are documented in a report and a video clip.
Nematodes, or roundworms, are the most species-rich and abundant group of soil-dwelling
organisms, and are found in almost all habitats, including the soil, rivers and lakes and the sea. By
specialising in a range of different feeding habits, they occupy key positions in food webs and play a
vital role in the soil nutrient cycle.
In a research project funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, Sebastian Höss is
investigating the effects on nematodes of the genetically modified Bt maize cultivar
MON89034xMON88017, which contains three different Bt proteins. In the soil, nematodes can be
exposed to the Bt proteins from Bt maize and are therefore potentially at risk. In laboratory
experiments the scientists initially observed a negative effect of the Bt proteins on the nematodes.
The nematodes responded to all three proteins with a significantly reduced breeding rate.
However, the worms had been exposed to much higher concentrations of the Bt proteins than one
would expect to find in the soil of a Bt maize field.
The Bt maize was then grown in field trials for three years and the team investigated whether the
nematode communities were any different to those found in the fields of conventional maize, both
in terms of numbers and in terms of species composition. According to the preliminary results of
the 2008 and 2009 field trials, the Bt maize under investigation has no impact on the nematode
communities in the soil. By contrast, significant changes in the nematode community were
observed over the course of the growing season, and as a function of the sand content in the soil,
irrespective of whether the plot contained genetically modified or conventional maize.
Nematodes - An indicator of soil quality
More information at gmo-safety.eu:
Research project: Effects on nematodes of Bt maize containing three Bt proteins
About GMO Safety
The gmo-safety.eu portal provides clear information about more than 180 research projects
funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on maize, oilseed rape,
potatoes, cereals and selected woody plants and trees. There are also political and scientific
news stories, international studies, a ‘science live’ section with video and photo coverage,
interviews and computer animations. The focus is as much on the latest findings concerning
the ecological impacts of Bt maize on bees, important beneficial organisms, and soil animals
and organisms, as it is on the results of new plant-breeding approaches to contain the spread
of genetically modified plants. The German version of the site, bioSicherheit.de, went online in
2001 and has seen a steady rise in users ever since. Today it is one of the most popular
German-language sites in the area of plant biotechnology.
Dr Barbara Löchte
GMO Safety team: Genius GmbH, Darmstadt; i-bio Information Biowissenschaften, Aachen
Genius GmbH – Science and Communication
Tel.: +49 (0)6151 872 4107