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Epigeic spiders are not affected by the genetically modified maize MON 88017


Oxana Habuštová (corresponding author), Biology Centre AS CR, Entomological Institute, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic. E-mail:


The genetically modified (GM) maize MON 88017 facilitates weed management owing to its tolerance to glyphosate, and resists western corn rootworm (WCR), Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, owing to the expression of Cry3Bb1 toxin. MON 88017 could therefore contribute to the solution of two major problems of European agriculture: continuous WCR spreading and high use of herbicides. To assess possible unwanted environmental impacts of MON 88017, we compared communities of spiders in plots planted in three successive years with this maize, its near isogenic non-GM cultivar treated or not treated with an insecticide and two unrelated maize cultivars. Each of the five treatments was applied on five 0.5 ha plots in a 14 ha field. Spiders were collected in five pitfall traps per plot five times per year. Upon reaching the waxy ripening stage, all plants of first-year cultivation were shredded to small pieces and ploughed into the soil in the respective plot, whereas in the 2nd and 3rd year the harvest was used for biogas production and only digestate was returned to the field. Out of 79 spider species, Pardosa agrestis, Pachygnatha degeeri and Oedothorax apicatus made up 28%, 25% and 23% of the total spider count in the 1st year of study; 2%, 8% and 84% in the 2nd; and 40%, 8% and 35% in the 3rd year. Statistical analysis did not reveal any influence of GM maize on the spider abundance and biodiversity. The abundance, and in two years also the species diversity, was insignificantly higher on the plots with GM maize than on plots with the insecticide-treated non-GM maize. The composition and size of spider community varied year to year, probably reflecting weather conditions and differences in field fertilization with organic matter.

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