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Mariela Cruz Calderón
Undergraduate Student
Life Sciences
Quest University
Butterflies in the Stomach: Is Genetically Modified Corn Harming Monarch Butterflies?

Why is the North American population of monarch butterflies declining? In 1999, a study published in the journal Nature suggested that a variety of genetically modified corn was killing these iconic butterflies. While it was later shown that the conditions in this study did not mirror those in the field, the results garnered a lot of media attention and many people today still believe that monarchs are being killed by GMOs. This case familiarizes students with the plight of the monarchs, encourages them to think about how to test the hypothesis that a toxin is responsible for their decline, and takes a critical look at several studies that investigated the role of Bt corn in the life cycle of monarchs. This interrupted case takes 60-90 min to complete, requires little to no science background, and can be used to explore the ecology and wildlife management of monarchs; risk assessment, toxicity, and exposure; experimental design, the scientific method, hypothesis, and critical thinking; or the relationship between science, the media and the public.