Effects of transgenic Bt corn litter on the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris

Mol Ecol. 2003 Apr;12(4):1077-86. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-294x.2003.01799.x.


A 200-day study was carried out to investigate the impact of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn on immature and adult Lumbricus terrestris in the field and in the laboratory. Another objective of this study was to develop test methods that could be used for standard testing of the impact of transgenic plants on different earthworm species in the field and in the laboratory. For this purpose two different experiments were involved, a laboratory experiment with adult L. terrestris and a field experiment with immature L. terrestris. No lethal effects of transgenic Bt corn on immature and adult earthworms were observed. Immature L. terrestris in the field had a very similar growth pattern when fed either (Bt+) or (Bt-) corn litter. No significant differences in relative weights of (Bt+) and (Bt-) corn-fed adult L. terrestris were observed during the first 160 days of the laboratory trial, but after 200 days adult L. terrestris had a significant weight loss of 18% of their initial weight when fed (Bt+) corn litter compared to a weight gain of 4% of the initial weight of (Bt-) corn-fed earthworms. Further studies are necessary to see whether or not this difference in relative weight was due to the Bt toxin or other factors discussed in the study. Degradation of Cry1Ab toxin in corn residues was significantly slower in the field than at 10 degrees C in the laboratory. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay results indicated that earthworms in both experiments were exposed to the Bt toxin throughout the whole experimental time.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / genetics*
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins / adverse effects
  • Bacterial Toxins*
  • Biological Assay
  • Endotoxins / adverse effects
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Oligochaeta / metabolism
  • Oligochaeta / physiology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology*
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • Zea mays / physiology


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis