Releases and the burden of proof

Paul Cherubini cherubini at
Thu May 4 06:01:47 EDT 2000

Michael Gochfeld wrote:

> Paul's response to Pat Foley's posting is very reminiscent of what we
> hear and have heard from the biotech community.  The biotech industry
> did not take for granted that it had to prove safety and still argues
> that regulatory agencies have to prove harm. If it weren't for a very
> cynical public, suspicious of the motives of large industry, I would
> guess that the balance would not sway in favor of the regulatory
> agencies.  Like any statistical problem it is much easier to demonstrate
> harm (even when it is rare) than to provide convincing evidence of
> safety (even when it is common).  However, that alone should not shift
> the responsibility.

You seem to have misinterpreted my intent, Michael. The pro-release community
sincerely wants to know what  specific scientific studies that it should
sponsor or conduct that would satisfy this "burden of proof" of no
harm in regard to the two species used for 90% of all releases: The Painted
Lady and Monarch Butterfly.

For example, last fall and winter the pro-release community took the initiative
to conduct a massive monarch tagging project, costing $10,000 in Wyoming, 
Colorado and New Mexico to determine the winter destination of fall migrants
in the Rocky Mountain area. We determined that both wild caught and butterfly
farm raised monarchs migrated in a wide range of directions (West to Southeast)
to monarch overwintering sites in both California and central 
Mexico, some 2000 miles apart. The butterflies crossed the continental
divide in both directions. Prior to this study, the established dogma had 
been that all fall migrants west of the Rockies migrated to California and all 
fall migrants east of the continental divide migrated to the highlands of central 
Mexico. It had been assumed that the Rockies represented
a kind of Berlin Wall to monarch movement and gene flow.

Now the pro-release community wants to move on and sponsor or conduct 
other types of specific scientific studies that would satisfy this "burden of
proof" of no harm in regard to the Painted Lady and Monarch Butterfly.
We look forward to hearing advice and suggestions about for future
research projects from invertebrate geneticists
such as Pat Foley and Bruce Walsh and from insect pathologists.

Paul Cherubini, Placerville, California

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