Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Super Worm

In the following well written article by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones, he describes Monsanto's denial regarding resistance in the corn rootworm to their Bt toxin corn despite glaring evidence:


I wanted to point out one part of the article that I find especially interesting:

"To avoid resistance, the EPA decreed back in 2003 that farmers using the product had to plant a "refuge" crop of non-Bt corn alongside their Bt corn, so that rootworms that had developed Bt resistance would mate with peers that had not been exposed to it, diluting the resistant trait and keeping it under control. The question was, how large a refuge? Monsanto, hot to move as much product as possible, wanted to keep it small. In ... early September, I laid out the whole tangled history of how back in 2003, Monsanto strong-armed the EPA into accepting a 20 percent refuge requirement, even after an independent scientific panel convened by the agency had recommended a 50 percent buffer." 

Many insects, including the corn rootworm, don't travel far to mate. Therefore, large cornfields with a buffer may still have plenty of surviving rootworms mating with other survivors, thus spreading resistance to the next generation. This is what happened. But what if that was the plan by Monsanto all along?

If you know that your product is doomed to fail in the long run, why not use it to your advantage? By "strong-arming" the EPA to require only a 20 percent buffer, resistance in the population evolved quickly. Now Monsanto can market their next generation of products to addicted farmers. These new products are Bt corn with a second pesticide engineered on top (called gene stacking). The added benefit for Monsanto, is that Bt -a natural pesticide used by organic farmers- is now useless in several areas of the country.

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