Pests Grow Resistant to Genetically Modified Corn

Pests Grow Resistant to Genetically Modified Corn

Scientists concerned over future crop failure

Genetically modifying crop plants to repel pests sounds like a great idea on paper. If the crops themselves kill bugs, we don't need to spray them with as many pesticides, reducing the levels of toxins in the environment and keeping the earth that much healthier. However, genetic modification doesn't always play out quite as planned. Plant scientists have expressed concern over a strain of biotech corn designed to be poisonous to rootworm. It would seem that the corn is no longer as effective at killing pests as scientists had originally hoped.

This past Monday, a group of 22 academic corn experts sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging regulators to look into the future of genetically modified corn. The souped-up seeds that have been introduced into mainstream agricultural use come from Monsanto, the largest seed company in the world. Their corn products contain a protein called Cry3Bb1, which kills rootworm upon ingestion. The idea behind a crop that kills its own pests has appealed to farmers wishing to save money on pesticides and crop dusting, but the popular modification may be losing its potency.

According to a Monsanto spokesperson, only 0.2 percent of acres growing the modified corn have seen problems with rootworm so far. But that's a big enough number to cause concern among corn specialists. Resistance development has already been reported across five states. If widespread use of the biotech corn continues, it will only become less and less effective. The organism it's designed to kill will only evolve into a resistant strain, leading to crop loss that local farmers won't be able to afford.

America depends on corn not just for food--although a heaping majority of our processed foods feature the grain in some way, shape or form--but also for fuel and animal feed. Whether it's a good or a bad thing, we're dependent on corn for the time being. Endangering the crop by promoting the use of a weakening biotech product could spell disaster in the future. Yet Monsanto seems determined to push their product to the finish. They've been in talks with affected farmers, but only to recommend that they spray with pesticides and then rotate the vulnerable corn with their biotech soybeans. It seems they'll give any advice just so long as it includes continued patronage of their products. 

With the rise of genetic modification in the agricultural industry, it's becoming harder and harder to find untampered-with seed. If farmers' only options are biotech plants that ultimately disrupt the environment for the worse, what does that say about the future of our food?