Monsanto Modified Corn Losing Bug Resistance

CornAgribusiness monster corporation Monsanto is in peril of creating a worse problem than it purports to solve with its genetically modified corn plants. Scott Kilman reports for the Wall Street Journal:

Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.

The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.

Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.

“These are isolated cases, and it isn’t clear how widespread the problem will become,” said Dr. Gassmann in an interview. “But it is an early warning that management practices need to change.”

The finding adds fuel to the race among crop biotechnology rivals to locate the next generation of genes that can protect plants from insects. Scientists at Monsanto and Syngenta AG of Basel, Switzerland, are already researching how to use a medical breakthrough called RNA interference to, among other things, make crops deadly for insects to eat. If this works, a bug munching on such a plant could ingest genetic code that turns off one of its essential genes.

Monsanto said its rootworm-resistant corn seed lines are working as it expected “on more than 99% of the acres planted with this technology” and that it is too early to know what the Iowa State University study means for farmers.

The discovery comes amid a debate about whether the genetically modified crops that now saturate the Farm Belt are changing how some farmers operate in undesirable ways.

These insect-proof and herbicide-resistant crops make farming so much easier that many growers rely heavily on the technology, violating a basic tenet of pest management, which warns that using one method year after year gives more opportunity for pests to adapt…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

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  • Rex Vestri

    Muck Fonsanto!!!!!

    • MadHierophant

      Fuck Monsanto, too.

    • The fonz

      Ayeee!

  • Rex Vestri

    Muck Fonsanto!!!!!

  • http://about.me/Doktor_Wilhelm Doktor Wilhelm

    I’m ruined by b-movies, video games and comic books; when I read something like “biotech crops could spawn superbugs.” I think of 40ft tall ants!

    • Anarchy Pony

      I wish!

  • http://twitter.com/Doktor_Wilhelm Doktor Wilhelm

    I’m ruined by b-movies, video games and comic books; when I read something like “biotech crops could spawn superbugs.” I think of 40ft tall ants!

  • http://twitter.com/Doktor_Wilhelm Doktor Wilhelm

    I’m ruined by b-movies, video games and comic books; when I read something like “biotech crops could spawn superbugs.” I think of 40ft tall ants!

  • quartz99

    How they failed to figure out that evolution was going to find a way around their modifications within just a few generations of the insect is beyond me. It only makes sense that in each generation of the rootworm, those that are best able to withstand the toxin from the modification will be the ones that survive to reproduce. Just like what we’re doing with using too many antibiotics and putting Triclosan in _everything_.

    At least maybe this will start some farmers looking for alternatives, like introducing natural predators that will go after the rootworms instead of using even more pesticides. We’ve got to be nearing the point where the natural means of pest control are finally less expensive than the chemical ones.

    • Jin The Ninja

      What you said was completely logical and forward thinking. The adjective lucid comes to mind. So i am completely unsurprised that monsanto only though about short term profit- they have proven themselves to be sociopaths of the highest order, no regard for anything but.

    • Anarchy Pony

      Well, considering how strong all of the unnatural solutions have made the bugs in question, can any of the natural solutions even work any more? Looks like the whole thing is just fucked every which way. Way to go industrial agriculture.

      • quartz99

        Sure they can. Some of them anyway, maybe not all. Particularly encouraging the natural predators of the pest in question. Whether a worm is super-resistant to pesticide or not isn’t going to make any difference to its natural predators (I don’t know the predators of this particular pest but commonly it’s birds or other insects) unless its chemistry has been changed enough that the predator won’t eat it anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck Monsanto, too.

  • Anonymous

    How they failed to figure out that evolution was going to find a way around their modifications within just a few generations of the insect is beyond me. It only makes sense that in each generation of the rootworm, those that are best able to withstand the toxin from the modification will be the ones that survive to reproduce. Just like what we’re doing with using too many antibiotics and putting Triclosan in _everything_.

    At least maybe this will start some farmers looking for alternatives, like introducing natural predators that will go after the rootworms instead of using even more pesticides. We’ve got to be nearing the point where the natural means of pest control are finally less expensive than the chemical ones.

  • Anonymous

    What you said was completely logical and forward thinking. The adjective lucid comes to mind. So i am completely unsurprised that monsanto only though about short term profit- they have proven themselves to be sociopaths of the highest order, no regard for anything but.

  • Wanooski

    I wish!

  • Wanooski

    Well, considering how strong all of the unnatural solutions have made the bugs in question, can any of the natural solutions even work any more? Looks like the whole thing is just fucked every which way. Way to go industrial agriculture.

  • Anonymous

    Sure they can. Some of them anyway, maybe not all. Particularly encouraging the natural predators of the pest in question. Whether a worm is super-resistant to pesticide or not isn’t going to make any difference to its natural predators (I don’t know the predators of this particular pest but commonly it’s birds or other insects) unless its chemistry has been changed enough that the predator won’t eat it anymore.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you or it couldn’t have been foreseen, assholes! This is so predictable it defies the use of adjectives. Or even nouns.

    Only in an era where people actually consider evolution ‘a theory’ would people look at situations like this and go “Wow…who could have seen that coming? Right outta left field man…what a shocker!”

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you or it couldn’t have been foreseen, assholes! This is so predictable it defies the use of adjectives. Or even nouns.

    Only in an era where people actually consider evolution ‘a theory’ would people look at situations like this and go “Wow…who could have seen that coming? Right outta left field man…what a shocker!”

  • Foozwah

    Gee, I’m _so_ suprised no-one saw this coming. Oh, wait…

  • Foozwah

    Gee, I’m _so_ suprised no-one saw this coming. Oh, wait…

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    On the planet Boottious, scientist Mxytpergs Ghrtwkids noted that his experiments on Earth with genetically modified humans have gone haywire.

    He said in a statement: “Sure, I expected them to arrive at some sort of self-awareness, but I never anticipated self-destruction. Time to go back to the research lab with these mutants.”

  • BuzzCoastin

    On the planet Boottious, scientist Mxytpergs Ghrtwkids noted that his experiments on Earth with genetically modified humans have gone haywire.

    He said in a statement: “Sure, I expected them to arrive at some sort of self-awareness, but I never anticipated self-destruction. Time to go back to the research lab with these mutants.”

    • Anarchy Pony

      Can’t they just introduce a phage to eliminate sociopaths?

  • The fonz

    Ayeee!

  • Wanooski

    Can’t they just introduce a phage to eliminate sociopaths?

  • Anonymous

    “Meilleann na muilte Dé go mall, ach meilleann siad go mín.”

    “God’s mills grind slow but they grind small.”

    Just don’t leave the family jewels lying on the quern stone.

    On the other hand, that’s why those Monsanto CEO’s get the big bucks–to responsibly oversee the long-term viability of their customers’ crops.  Capitalism as the Invisible Hand of God, as it were.  Or at least the middle finger.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    “Meilleann na muilte Dé go mall, ach meilleann siad go mín.”

    “God’s mills grind slow but they grind small.”

    Just don’t leave the family jewels lying on the quern stone.

    On the other hand, that’s why those Monsanto CEO’s get the big bucks–to responsibly oversee the long-term viability of their customers’ crops.  Capitalism as the Invisible Hand of God, as it were.  Or at least the middle finger.

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