Risk assessment of the cultivation of a stacked Bt-maize variety (MON89034 X MON88917) for nematode communities
Genetically modified Bt-maize MON89034 x MON88017 contains three different genes derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which enable protection against insect pests, due to expression of three different insecticidal crystal proteins (Cry proteins), i.e., Cry1A.105 and Cry2Ab2 against the European corn borer and Cry3Bb1 against the Western corn root worm. Nematodes are important organisms in agricultural soil ecosystems, and on fields with Bt-maize cultivation they will be exposed to Cry proteins released into the soil from roots or plant residues. The objective of this study was to analyze in a field experiment the effect of Bt-maize MON89034 x MON88017 on nematodes as non-target organisms. Nematode communities from soil planted with the Bt-maize were compared to those from soil planted with the near-isogenic cultivar (with and without chemical insecticide treatment) and two conventional maize cultivars. The experimental field consisted of 40 plots in a completely randomized block design (eight plots for each treatment), which were monitored over two growing seasons (2008 and 2009) at six sampling dates for nematode diversity at the genus level in the rhizosphere soil. Physicochemical soil properties and Cry protein concentrations were also analyzed. Nematodes showed very high abundances, as well as a high diversity of taxa and functional guilds, indicating the relevance of maize fields as their habitat. Neither Bt-maize cultivation, nor insecticide treatment adversely affected abundance or community structure of nematode assemblages in field plots compared to several non-Bt cultivars including a near-isogenic cultivar. This confirmed the risk estimations based on the analyzed soil concentrations of extractable Cry protein, not exceeding 4.8 ng g-1 soil dry weight and thus revealing a safe toxicity exposure ratio of >20.