Monarchs in the Corn

CATEGORIES: Ethics Cases

In 1999, scientists working at Cornell University, led by John Losey, completed a preliminary study in which they found that monarch butterfly larvae are harmed when they consume milkweed dusted with transgenic corn pollen. This finding was immediately used by some environmental groups to argue that transgenic crops should be banned, and was criticized by others who saw it as an attack on a product that was essentially safe.

This case focuses on issues involved in the public presentation of scientific findings and publication ethics. In particular, it addresses issues that arise in cases where research is likely to generate a powerful public response, and where corporate, environmental, and public interests may be in conflict.

  • What features of a scientific article are relevant to the decision whether or not it is ready for publication?
  • Is it appropriate for scientists to take possible public response into account when deciding how to present research findings in print?

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