GM crop fails to protect against bugs

2011-08-30 08:25

Chicago - A voracious pest which has long plagued corn farmers is devouring a widely used variety that was genetically modified to thwart the rootworms, raising fears of a new superbug.

So far, there is no evidence that a significant number of rootworms have developed a resistance to the corn's protective toxin.

However, experts warn that farmers may be forced to resume the heavy use of pesticides if resistant bugs become widespread.

They also caution that farmers may be using genetically modified crops in ways that hasten the development of resistant bugs.

"The western corn rootworm is one of the most significant insect pests of corn in the United States and has a potential to become a very significant insect in Europe," said Michael Gray, a crop scientist at the University of Illinois.

Adaptive bugs

Farmers used to be able to manage the pests by rotating which crops they planted in their fields.

But rootworms started to lay their eggs on soybeans - the most common substitute - which meant farmers had to use pesticides to get rid of them. The hardy and adaptive bugs have also developed resistance to some pesticides, Gray said on Monday.

Monsanto released the first seeds that were genetically modified to protect themselves from rootworms in 2003. US farmers used this type of seed for 45% of the US crop in 2009.

Evidence of the first resistant rootworms was found in four Iowa fields that suffered extensive damage from the pests in 2009.

Gray is currently investigating whether rootworms which devoured genetically modified corn in Illinois this year have also developed a resistance.

Laboratory testing published in July confirmed that the bugs collected from the Iowa fields were able to pass a resistance to the crop's toxins on to their offspring.

"These results suggest that improvements in resistance management and a more integrated approach to the use of Bt crops may be necessary," wrote lead researcher Aaron Gassmann of Iowa State University.


The fields where the resistant rootworms were found had been planted with the genetically modified seeds for at least three consecutive years.

That could have helped the bugs develop a resistance, Gassmann wrote.

Another contributor could be the insufficient use of "refuges", he concluded.

Farmers are supposed to plant 20% of their fields with corn that doesn't have the genetic modification so that if resistant bugs develop they will end up breeding with non-resistant rootworms drawn to the unprotected plants and lessen the chance of passing resistance on to the next generation.

Monsanto is already working to make it easier for farmers to comply with these government-mandated "refuges" by selling bags that contain a mix of unprotected and protected seeds.

It also has several other products already on the market which could work as a substitute if significant resistance develops and has several new products in the pipeline, said spokesperson Lee Quarles.

But while Monsanto is taking the study results "seriously" there is no reason for farmers to stop using the current seeds, he said.

"Today's products work," Quarles said.

"They continue to provide tremendous performance to farmers and we're seeing that performance on greater than 99% of all acres planted."

  • FatPenguin - 2011-08-30 08:56

    Here it comes..... rant[

      ray - 2011-08-30 09:57

      yes-and will Monsanto take responsibility or just claim there is "no evidence" as usual.

      Wes - 2011-08-30 10:38

      Oh please, science improves on failures, that is how it works.

      kidblack - 2011-08-30 10:41

      @ray . lol. if you understood natural selection, and artificial fitness, it was only be a matter of time before this happened. But thats no reason not to reap the benefits of GM whilst the pest was unadapted. All we do now is engineer and a new toxin or a variant of the same one. Monsanto engineers are already studying the genotypes of the adapted worms, seeing what is required for the next version of crop. Without GM, the worlds monocultures could not support 8 billion people. It is already struggling as it is.

  • Max - 2011-08-30 09:30

    Monsanto is the biggest killer of them all!

      Jay - 2011-08-30 10:35

      you are right. i read an eye opening article on their ways and means of doing business and how they bully the farmers in the USA to buy their seed and what the GM they do to the seed causes - they produce a carcinogenic product!

      kidblack - 2011-08-30 10:44

      ignorance is bliss.

      OnlyaGinger - 2011-08-30 12:14

      @ kidblack- Denial is also bliss, isnt it?! Monsanto would kick an 80yr old granny in the ovaries if they could make money out of it. These evil b*****ds pretend that they look after the wellbeing of the farmers and international food security- hahahahahahahaha- are they registered as a charity? Uhm no. You are either a rep for monsanto, or you are the ignorant one. Please watch Food INC- if you dare open your eyes. There are currently hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed againsts monsanto by both conventional and organic farmers- dont tell me this is coincidence- monsanto is the most evil business in the world- wake up and smell the bio engineered daisies.

  • Robbie - 2011-08-30 09:41

    Nature is cleverer than us humans...

  • Jay - 2011-08-30 10:34

    Monsanto are also known as the seed police or the seed mafia as they send their staff out to go and spy on farmers using the previous year's seed. the genetic modification they do on the seed cause cancer and are carcinogenic. Your toes would curl if you read what i have read about these seeds. Never buy soya or any product made from their seeds if you can avoid it.

      Jay - 2011-08-30 11:35

      just to clarify you can buy soya but make sure it says "Non-GM" on it.

  • Counter-spin - 2011-08-30 10:35

    Evolution has been practising these survival techniques for 3.5 billion years, how a humans can even think of get the jump on them with some cheap genetic tinkering in a lab is arrogance indeed. These organisms have been participating in the most important game of all for billions of years, a game called survival in the most brutal areana of them all. They are experts at it. To think we can out guess them is stupid, probably the most stupid (and also genetically inferior) are the people who believe Monsanto's promise of bigger yields (read more money) for less input.

      Wes - 2011-08-30 10:42

      Okay.... Stop using you computer, microwave and stop eating as well. Crops you are eating now, including the "organic" ones comes from years of genetic engineering by farmers. Go back into the bush and start eating berries and hunt your meat.

      OnlyaGinger - 2011-08-30 12:08

      @wes- BIG difference between genetic modification the Monsanto and Bayer does it, and selective breeding for better characteristics of a fruit. Think of dogs, mixed breeds are typically stronger than pure breds, but thats very different from messing with the actua genetic make up of the animal- nature still decides what genes are brought forth- in Bioengineering they put antifreeze from a arctic fish into your tomatoes- now how is that natura or good?

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-08-30 12:43

      Wes - your argument is simplistic and uninformed. Splicing of genes from completely seperate species is contrary to nature, unless you have ever seen an arctic cod shagging a potato or a strawberry. Tell the whole story or say nothing at all.

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-08-30 12:52

      @Wes - one more thing. A lot of the starvation in parts of Africa is as a result of Monsanto and their activities in testing their products in Africa. They dump their GM seed here to test drought resistance. It is nice and "successful" and the locals lap up the free stuff, until Monsanto end the trial. Then the locals cannot afford the seed, which is not self germinating, and have also lost their original seed stocks. The results are obvious. It is for that reason that there are now scientists around the world, especially in Switzerland, building Seed Banks where they are storing millions of seed from species that are under threat. Forget about your training and take a sober look at what is happening, not an intellectual look at how you can "correct mistakes".

  • Counter-spin - 2011-08-30 11:17

    @ Wes Ok so we have been doing genetic engineering of crops for the last 3000 years, but it is only in the last 60 years that we have been dosing it with ever increasing amounts and varietys of pesticides. Also it is only in the last 20 years that Monsanto and its ilk has been doing their Frankenstein work. Nature is brutally unforgiving with inferior genetic species, if that species needs crutches and a permanent hepling hand (read labs, sterile hot houses and ever increasing amounts of pesticide) then it is doomed for extinction. Evolution is infinitly patient, it waits for that first mistake. The worlds food supply balances in a razors edge.

      ThinkAboutIt - 2011-08-30 13:15

      Correction: Human's food supply balances on a razor's edge. The world will do fine without us.

  • Underwhelmed - 2011-08-30 14:07

    PIGS! Monsanto = death, shut them down they are the epitomy of EVIL.

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