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Monsanto Loses to a Tiny Foe: Corn Rootworm

Monsanto Loses to a Tiny Foe: Corn Rootworm
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That clever little pest, the western corn rootworm, is outsmarting the genetic engineers inserting a Bt protein into corn plants. Apparently Monsanto‘s attempts to kill off the beasties has just made them hungrier.

That is more than a little problematic since corn is a popular ingredient in almost everything, and genetically engineered crops account for 88 percent of all the corn planted in the U.S. You probably ate some GM corn today. If you ate any of these foods you almost surely did: corn meal, tortilla chips, yogurt, bread, breakfast cereals, “honey” roasted nuts, salad dressings, canned fruits, jams, barbecue sauce and ketchup.

The rootworm infestation is a triple blow to farmers. They were already struggling for survival in the face of massive drought and new superweeds. Now hungry pests are delivering a knock-out punch.

A 2011 study by Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology was the first to raise the alarm after finding corn rootworm in some fields. The honeymoon was over, but the extent of the problem did not seem like a reason for farmers to divorce Monsanto corn. Some changes in farming practices could bring it under control.

Then in August 2012 a University of Illinois study confirmed the Iowa State findings. Monsanto’s Bt-corn was losing its effectiveness against corn rootworm. In an article in the Daily Illini, entomology professor Mike Gray called it, “an unfortunate consequence of the overuse of good technology.”

Farmers in the Midwest had been enjoying high profits from their Bt-corn. They had not been planting refuge strips and had fallen into the practice of planting the same crop in the same field year after year. That was a boon for Monsanto but also for the corn rootworm, which evolved to resist the toxin.

Next: Monsanto goes on the defensive

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Photos of adult and larval stages of corn rootworm via Wikimedia Commons

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140 comments

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6:06AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

Thank you Cathryn, for Sharing this!

2:55PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

Good. Monsanto is an evil company.

12:20AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Elizabeth M. you could not have said it any better!!!

10:10PM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Thanks

11:02AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

It figures - they have developed super weeds - now super bugs.
When will man (& Big Corps.) realize that nature looks after itself?

8:12AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Absolutely, excuses for using GMO fall on its own. Dangerous for human is one thing, the other thing is how insect`s can adopt and make things far more dangerous......

5:19AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Same problem as super-germs developing resistance to antibiotics because we overuse antibiotics. Overuse almost anything and it fails you. Back to hygiene and isolation and better nutrition to raise the ability of the domestic plant or animal or human to withstand the hazards of the pest species.

1:41AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

thanks.

11:30AM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

Could it really be that bad?

10:16AM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

It's NICE to see nature fighting back against Monsanto. I wonder if monsanto will take legal action against the corn rootworm?

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