Monsanto-fed “SUPER-INSENCTS” thriving in this summer’s drought
August 9, 2012
This summer, a severe drought and genetically modified crops are delivering a one-two punch to US crops.
Across the farm country, years of reliance on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soy seeds—engineered for resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—have given rise to a veritable plague of Roundup-resistant weeds. Meanwhile, Monsanto’s other blockbuster genetically modified trait—the toxic gene of the pesticidal bacteria Bt—is also beginning to lose effectiveness, imperiling crops even as they’re already bedeviled by drought. Last year, I reported on Bt-resistant western rootworms munching on Bt-engineered corn in isolated counties in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.
This summer, resistant rootworms are back like the next installment of a superhero blockbuster movie franchise. In a July 30 post, University of Minnesota extension agents Ken Ostlie and Bruce Potter report they’ve seen a “major [geographical] expansion” of rootworm damage throughout southern Minnesota, where Monsanto’s corn is common. The severe drought, they add, has “masked” the problem, because rainstorms typically make rootworm-damaged corn plants fall over, and rainstorms haven’t come this year.
Drought plus a plague of rootworms presents a compounded problem to farmers: The bugs tend to thrive under dry conditions, and the damage their incessant root munching does to plants above ground, like stunting their growth, is “magnified” by lack of water and heat stress, Ostlie and Potter add.
Last week, Minnesota Public Radio reporter Mark Steil filed a report on a workshop on Bt-resistant rootworms at which Potter spoke. Apparently, the entomologist minced no words:
Potter told them [the workshop’s 100 attendees] the genetically modified corn is basically backfiring. “Instead of making things easier, we’ve just made corn rootworm management harder and a heck of a lot more expensive,” Potter said.
I’m terrified of what other crazy implications from genetically-modified/fortified/whatever-fied crops we’re going to eventually uncover.
I wasn’t sure about this story so I went looking for more links.
but if you have the access, take a look at this paper published in 1962:
tl;dr a sub sub species of this beetle (YES IT’S A BEETLE, NOT A WORM) started showing resistance to heptachlor about 50 years ago. Heptachlor is an chlorine based insecticide that isn’t really used any more, meant to stave off fire ants.
It had killed the beetles, but in one area the pesticide became less effective.
The beetles adapted.
It use to be that the life cycle of the corn rootworm beetle lasted two growing seasons and was entirely dependent on corn as a food source. So the response was to do crop rotation so no plot of land was made to grow corn two years in a row.
The beetles adapted.
in the intervening two decades it became clear that popular pesticides were remaining in the soil and even storing itself inside bodies fed on the corn treated with it. pesticides weren’t working. but maybe this other thing…
that other thing was transgenic manipulation of corn to produce the toxic bacteria that would kill/deter the rootworm beetles. Bt modified corn was widely planted from the early 90’s to recently, and it was expected that the pests would adapt, but there was a push to convert all corn to Bt corn in large swathes, to adapt the entire “herd” of corn if you will.
And the beetles, it seems, have adapted. I’m not expecting to see anything published about this adaptation until late 2013 - the wheels of scientific journals grind slowly. But agri-science knew this day was coming, and here it is.