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Biotech Science

Insects Rapidly Becoming Resistant To GM Corn 368

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-speed-of-nature dept.
DrHeasley writes "BT corn, which contains the DNA for Bacillus thuringensis toxin, was once hailed as the final solution for insect predators on this valuable crop. Now it turns out that insects, and evolution, are smarter than we thought, and the corn that contains the built in pesticide is no longer reliably protected."
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Insects Rapidly Becoming Resistant To GM Corn

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  • Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:04AM (#38523466)

    Life finds a way

    • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:12AM (#38523514) Homepage Journal
      It's been doing this for millions of years. Plants evolve pesticides constantly. There are species of cacti that grow in perfect grids because they toxify the soil against even their own seedlings (a common trick amongst trees, to prevent crowding) and it's why wild almonds contain cyanide. The only real surprise is how fast the insects coevolved—but perhaps, given the rate of adaptation of bacteria to antibiotics, that's foolish of us.

      Still, don't take this as an excuse to be ecologically destructive. Species that are already under stress don't have much leeway, and any shot to biological diversity is bad for the biosphere's durability as a whole, excepting perhaps idiotic birds like the kakopo.
      • by Nursie (632944)

        The Kakapo makes perfect sense in a place where there are no mammals, specifically rats and foxes. The Kiwi likewise.

        It's one of the things that makes New Zealand bird life so crazy and cool. Damn shame those Maori wiped out the Moa, and introduced mammals look to be trying for the rest of the weird ground-birds.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        #correction HUNDREDS of millions of years (if not billions).

        I'm rather un-surprised at the adaptation speed of the insects actually.
        When studying evolutionary process, we used fruit flies specifically because of the extreme adaptation rates.

        The high population size of the insects, coupled with their high mutation rate, and ever-increasing adaptation speed (family lines that adapt faster are a positive selection factor in evolution among many species) points in a fairly obvious direction of their overcoming

        • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Informative)

          by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:26AM (#38523764) Homepage

          Just so some accuracy can be in here. Life, as in DNA replication, exists for about 3 billion years. The solar system for about 4.5 billion years (our sun is third generation, in other words, 2 solar systems were destroyed before ours was created in roughly the same place), and earth somewhere near 4.4 billion years, although it could have been much smaller than today until about 4.2 billion years.

          That "island species" (technically races, not species) die out when reunited with their long lost mainland brethren is not exactly news. It's what's happening to the human species right now. In general, without natural borders, different races are impossible within a species. The fact that we have both global travel and different races is an exceptional situation, and a temporary one (in ~500 years, maybe less, there will only be 1 human race left, unless global travel ends before that time). It is not known which race that will be, but if other island species evolution patterns are any indications, whatever race survives will look a lot like the original human race. It would be interesting to see whether the remaining race would be black or not (if not, that would be a strong indication that the original humans in Africa were not actually black before the races split up. My money's on that they weren't black (cause primates have white skin), but it could very well depend on the exact timing of the split).

          My biggest complaint about food crops, rather than their GM-ness (success or failure) is that once we get a "good" strain, we keep cloning it instead of continuing the process via selective breeding. So while each generation of insect improves against the crop, the crop defends damn-near exactly the same way; I suspect that may have reduced the time needed for adaptation as well.

          No offence, but this is a trivial, trivial complaint. Don't you think that GM researchers *also* stimulate evolution in those plants ? Also, for extremely obvious reasons predatory species cannot totally wipe out the species they seem to be destroying. Predatory species are fundamentally limited to about 1/500th of the biomass of their victim species (or -usually- much less), except in the extreme short term.

          • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Informative)

            by ATMAvatar (648864) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:37AM (#38523810) Journal

            Don't you think that GM researchers *also* stimulate evolution in those plants ?

            No, I don't. Many if not most GM plants are rendered sterile so that you are forced to purchase new seeds from year to year, thus making further evolution impossible. In the off-chance that some GM plants manage to produce offspring, the farmer involved (intentionally or no) sued and the crops destroyed.

            • Many if not most GM plants are rendered sterile so that you are forced to purchase new seeds

              And now I went on to believe that it was to avoid contamination and halt unforseen outcomes. I don't know how to find back this story of modified crops which contaminated the surrounding fields by pollination and they had a situation going on.

              Guess I'm still from the generation where "chaos theory" was theoretical and implications of genetic engineering were investigated in SciFi making people cautious about uncertai

              • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:4, Informative)

                by gslavik (1015381) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:31AM (#38524866)

                I believe these were some of the older crops before they were rendered sterile. It has happened though. GM-crop companies (Monsato, I believe) have sued farmers under the DMCA for using the produced seeds of plants which Monsato sold seeds for. There was a case where a farmer was sued even though the neighboring farmer used such plants and pollen from those plants got carried over. Here's a recent one: http://nelsonfarm.net/issue.htm [nelsonfarm.net]

            • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Informative)

              by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:54AM (#38524282) Homepage

              Think about this for a second. How are these seeds grown ? Sterile ? How are the genes developed ? When are they rendered sterile ?

              Needless to say, evolution is used in these plants. They introduce a few million random mutations while getting the plants infected with DNA rewriting viruses containing interesting genes (just like in the real world, incidentally, except they are the ones picking the genes instead of random chance). From the results, the extremely large majority is substandard. Then they select the best ones, grow massive quantities of them, and repeat the process (does this process perchance remind you of something ?).

              Then repeat this entire shit 500 times, and then finally render the final batch of the plants second generation sterile, which is then sent out. In reality GM "manipulation of plants" is not that different from accelerating normal evolution under specifically chosen circumstances (ie. what humans have been doing to farm plants for 20k years, just better and faster).

            • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Interesting)

              by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#38526852) Homepage

              I think it is worse than that. Once you have seeds that are the "property" of a single corporation you have only one entity that is capable of subsequent derivative works. Instead of having "an entire planet of hackers" trying to solve the problem of continued viability, all work is limited to the single corporation that may not feel motivated to plan ahead.

              It's the Cathedral and the Bazaar all over again.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Hatta (162192)

            In general, without natural borders, different races are impossible within a species. The fact that we have both global travel and different races is an exceptional situation, and a temporary one (in ~500 years, maybe less, there will only be 1 human race left, unless global travel ends before that time).

            We already have but one race. There is more genetic variation within one troop of chimpanzees than there is among the entire human species. A random african and a random european have as much DNA in comm

        • by Rei (128717)

          The problem is, that the planting procedures for BT corn were supposed to prevent or at least reduce this. Proper BT corn management practice is to have a certain percentage (usually 20%) of your corn as non-BT (called "refuge"), to provide a haven for non-BT-resistant insects to thrive (in far greater numbers than any rare resistant bugs), thus dramatically diluting BT resistant genes and the evolutionary pressure to develop them.

      • by mrmeval (662166)

        I'd be willing to find out the unintended consequences of exterminating mosquitoes, fleas, deer flies, tsetse flies and other human parasites or disease transmitters.

      • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Interesting)

        by FirephoxRising (2033058) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @05:04AM (#38523904)
        I'm amazed that anyone is surprised at all. If you have a selection pressure (the BT corn), then eventually (and not that long, insects breed fast) one mutation will arise that allows the insect to eat it, breed and pass on the resistant genes. Soon the new genotype is the dominant one, and the corn is lunch. They'll need to use toxic sprays to wipe out these populations and then stop using BT crops constantly, if you break us the cycle, the BT eaters will have no advantage and possibly be at a disadvantage compared to the other insects, and the population will not be composed of resistant members. The organic movement has been saying that this would happen since they first announced the new GM corn. BT is best used as a spray in combination with other management strategies. Idiots. The amazing thing is that they want to sue neighbouring farmers if the GM genes cross the boundary (when they said it wouldn't) and they are surprised when organic farmers sue them back if they lose their accreditation due to the contamination. Talk about wanting it all ways!
        • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:43AM (#38524242) Homepage

          To try to get some insight on how many genetic changes there are in insects I churned a few numbers:

          1. * Life cycle time is takes a full year for most insects [umich.edu]
          2. * Number of offspring per female 100 [cipotato.org] - varies a lot
          3. * Number of insects per acre is 10^8 [si.edu] (100 million)
          4. * Number of acres grown under GM crops 3x10^8 [gmo-compass.org]
          5. * Mutation rate is about 10^-8 [wikipedia.org] per base pair per generation
          6. * The number of genome base pairs 1.4x10^8 [wikipedia.org] (fruit fly)

          Multiply that and you get 10^18 insect offspring per year; a mutation rate of about 1 per individual per generation. So the number of mutations is a very large number. This means a large number of ''natural experiments'' done, one of which may result in an insect a bit more resistant to a GM crop, this will give the insect an advantage and so be able to have more offspring all of which carry the advantageous gene. So advantageous genes spread rapidy, through sexual reproduction are combined with other genes and the best combinations flourish.

          WARNING: very rough calculations, most insects die before they have the chance to reproduce and so most mutations are 'lost'. The numbers that I obtained are very likely wrong - but even if each one is wrong by a factor of 100, it doesn't make a huge dent in a very large number.

          • Under the assumption of constant average population, you can simply assume 2 offspring per female (that there are actually ~100 and ~98 die means, like a high-gain amplifier with a highly attenuated signal, there's a lot of noise).
      • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @05:14AM (#38523930)

        The only real surprise is how fast the insects coevolved

        Not really. It's kind of like cracking copy protection on the internet. It only takes one. One successful cracker. Or in this case one successful mutation. Having exclusive access to entire crops that other insects can't touch offers a clear survival advantage, so once the mutation happens it's a given that there will be a population explosion of resistant types, within a single or at best a couple generations. Plagues of insects are not unheard of, because insects have phenomenal breeding capability. Well this is a man-made plague of resistant types.

        • Unless the insect that has a mutated gen isn't reproducing and isn't stimulated or motivated to reproduce anymore.

          I suggest we play insect-porn on GM-crop fields. So, if there would be any resistant insect.. We'll, he'd be fapping foreveralone, becoming overweight and dieing of diabetes because of excessive plentyfulness.

      • by Xest (935314)

        "There are species of cacti that grow in perfect grids because they toxify the soil against even their own seedlings"

        What species? I've never heard of this before.

    • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:48AM (#38524972) Homepage Journal

      Imagine that. We tamper with nature, and nature tampers right back. And, we're kinda stuck with a monoculture. I've read, and even posted on /. a time or two, about the many varieties of vegetables that are virtually extinct now. Potatoes. I think we have maybe 5 varieties, out of hundreds that were common in the 1800's. Just one super resistant blight that targets one currently grown variety can put mankind in real hardship. The strain of corn being cited probably accounts for more than 60% of the corn grown in the US, and possibly 40% or more of the corn grown worldwide. Kill it, and people are going to go very hungry.

      Monocultures are so WONDERFUL - for the people who are extorting money out of that one culture!

      Laugh at me, one and all. But it is within reason that these monocultures may put mankind's survival at stake one day.

  • Surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbope (130292) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:10AM (#38523502)

    Is this a surprise, that nature can route around humans? Seriously, this was expected. However, all this means is that Monsato and other evil corporations like it who create GM seeds now have an opening for a new product to develop and sell, for an even higher price. And they will get this higher price because the "old" GM seeds are not successful any more. And the cycle continues...

    • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jimmydevice (699057) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:23AM (#38523562)
      No surprise, End game is when ONLY patented and copyright Monsanto seeds and plants will survive.
      All others eaten or killed by mutated bacteria and virus. WIN!
      • by trout007 (975317)

        Or we have to grow food underground away from insects using only torches for light.

        • Right, eventually the humans will also be concidered pests and the microarray analyzing robots will inherit the earth.

    • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:34AM (#38523596) Homepage Journal
      It may amuse you to learn how the Monsanto people "engineered" their genetically modified and patent-protected seeds.

      They hit them with random mutagens until they found something that was resistant to Roundup. And then they bred them like pedigree cats to enhance the effect. The grass genome (from which corn, wheat, and a number of other crops are derived) is absurdly complex, believed to contain four to six times as many genes as the human, and comes in five copies. Engineering it is very hit-and-miss. So they didn't even bother. Instead they patented the outcome of a directed natural process. It's like patenting the domesticated cow genome. (The grass-eating variety, not the mother-in-law variety.)
      • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Informative)

        by robotkid (681905) <alanc2052@y a h o o . c om> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:38AM (#38524220)

        It may amuse you to learn how the Monsanto people "engineered" their genetically modified and patent-protected seeds.

        They hit them with random mutagens until they found something that was resistant to Roundup. And then they bred them like pedigree cats to enhance the effect. The grass genome (from which corn, wheat, and a number of other crops are derived) is absurdly complex, believed to contain four to six times as many genes as the human, and comes in five copies. Engineering it is very hit-and-miss. So they didn't even bother. Instead they patented the outcome of a directed natural process. It's like patenting the domesticated cow genome. (The grass-eating variety, not the mother-in-law variety.)

        This is incorrect, my biochem prof many moons ago consulted for Monsanto and gave us a nice lecture on how this was accomplished. Basically, Roundup (glyphosphate) inhibits an enzyme in most plants that is required to synthesize essential amino acids from glycine. It turns out certain insects have an orthologous enzyme that is not inhibited by glyphosphate - this was spliced into the "roundup ready" seeds. This is how the engineered strains can also have high yield; if you simply tried to randomly mutate glyphosphate resistance, chances are you'd also reduce the efficiency of the enzyme itself and produce a pretty sickly crop with poor yields. The problem with weeds is that even a sickly growing weed can mess up your crop.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup_(herbicide)#Genetic_engineering [wikipedia.org]

        Genetic engineering is certainly not elegant, it's mostly cut-and-paste jobs, but you only use directed evolution to fine tune things as it justs gets stuck in a local evolutionary minimum.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Its a surprise to the investors who thought they could sell terminator seeds and use courts to control a revenue stream on a new generation of legally protected crops.
      Everything was in place. The changes to US law, the ability of the US to push its new agro products and laws world wide, a wonderful new crop selection and the joy of setting next years seed prices every year.
      The critters are doing a select few out of billions of $ of intergenerational wealth - think of all the "trustafarians" who would hav
    • Is this a surprise, that nature can route around humans?

      Insects treat pesticide as damage, and route around it?

      • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheEyes (1686556) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @05:04AM (#38523902)

        Is this a surprise, that nature can route around humans?

        Insects treat pesticide as damage, and route around it?

        Considering that it actually does damage them, then yes insects do in fact treat pesticides as damage.

        Remember that the Internet meme is an analogy based on nature; saying that, yes, the nature analogy actually does apply to nature is slightly redundant.

        • Remember that the Internet meme is an analogy based on nature

          It is? Which part of nature? Not stampeding buffalo, I presume.

    • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kdemetter (965669) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:45AM (#38523832)

      You are on to something there :

      - a patent on GM seeds only lasts for a few years
      - It only takes a few years for the insects to overcome the GM corn's resistance
      - new GM seeds are invented in the mean time , which are again patented

      Using this technique, you could trigger a targeted evolution in insects, making them much more dangerous for non-GM crops, effectively forcing farmers to use the GM seeds.

      • Wouldn't work like that. Immunity to chemical X gives no specific advantage for attacking plants that don't produce X to start with.

    • Evil government! (Score:4, Informative)

      by thule (9041) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @05:28AM (#38523964) Homepage
      How is Monsanto evil in this case? One of the big reasons cited in the article for farmers abusing the BT corn is the market price of corn is very high. Not mentioned in the article is the reason why it is so high. My cousin informed me that he is going to sell off the bit of corn they don't use for cash this year. Why? The government has been subsidizing the corn/ethonal in at least three different ways, exaggerating the price. Why wouldn't a farmer plant and sell of as much as he can and cash in on the high prices? The only reason they are able to do this in the first place is the high yield of corn crops since the 1960's (150-200 bushels and acre compared to only 50/acre years ago). Would we even consider burning corn in our cars if we were not able to realize current yields? If the government wasn't distorting the price, then normal supply in demand would limit the interest in planting too much corn and flooding the market.
    • No surprise- it's just planned obsolescence as usual.
    • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Patch86 (1465427) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:40AM (#38524230)

      What's surprising is that farmers don't seem to learn (or doctors, for the same reasons). Centuries ago farmers got to grips with the concept of crop rotation; planting the same crops in the same fields every season produces ever deteriorating results. So even if it means planting a less profitable crop type every season or so, it's better for the farm in the long run.

      Creatures will form a resistance to pesticides (and for doctors, antibiotics) if they're used constantly. The only way to lessen this problem is to use a constantly shifting pattern of pesticides/antibiotics, making sure to "rest" a given method for a certain amount of time. That way no species gets a chance to evolve towards a serious resistance to any one of them.

      Instead, we pick one "wonder method" (the miracle chemical of the moment, or a GM solution, or radiation treatment, or whatever) and use it until it doesn't work any more. And then panic.

    • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by robotkid (681905) <alanc2052@y a h o o . c om> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:03AM (#38524312)

      Is this a surprise, that nature can route around humans? Seriously, this was expected. However, all this means is that Monsato and other evil corporations like it who create GM seeds now have an opening for a new product to develop and sell, for an even higher price. And they will get this higher price because the "old" GM seeds are not successful any more. And the cycle continues...

      Really, the crux of the problem is that Monsanto has an effective monopoly on GM crops (~90% market share last I checked), and it's operating with as much scruples as any other company in the same position (i.e. Ma Bell, US. Steel, Standard Oil, Microsoft back in the early 90's . . ). As much as I hate people who claim "the free market" will cure all our woes, if we just had 2 or 3 equally powerful GM companies they would actually have to compete with each other on price and features and licensing terms (for example, allowing farmers to save seeds for replanting).

      The sad state of things as they are now are the end result of the effective monopoly combined with the unprecedented patent protection that GM crops have been afforded compared to other types of plant breed protection - this
      guarantees that every new innovation will be overproduced and overused to maximize profits up until they are completely useless. I mean, we are talking about 15 year-old technology in a field where you have trouble giving away last year's gene sequencers on craiglist because they are so outdated.

  • by idbeholda (2405958) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:12AM (#38523512) Journal
    Everytime we've hailed a one-shot approach to these types of problems, the same thing happens. Look at antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria and the like. Do you really think this is going to be any different?
    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:26AM (#38523574) Homepage Journal
      We didn't expect it to happen so quickly, that's all. Bacteria evolve much more rapidly than insects: E. coli splits once every 8 hours under optimal conditions in colonies of millions of cells, and may mutate up to 0.003% of their genome with each cell division under stress. That's a lot of brute forcing power. Insects, by contrast, have much more elaborate and stringent eukaryotic mutation controls, and most species take a couple of weeks to hatch.
      • by erice (13380) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:25AM (#38523760) Homepage

        We didn't expect it to happen so quickly, that's all. Bacteria evolve much more rapidly than insects: E. coli splits once every 8 hours under optimal conditions in colonies of millions of cells, and may mutate up to 0.003% of their genome with each cell division under stress. That's a lot of brute forcing power. Insects, by contrast, have much more elaborate and stringent eukaryotic mutation controls, and most species take a couple of weeks to hatch.

        Which probably means that some small fraction of the population was already resistant when the "experiment" began. No need to wait for a lucky mutation. Just apply strong selection pressure and the trait quickly spreads.

    • Yeah, antibiotics will stop working in the future ! OMG ! Let's redo the plague infections from the middle ages today while we can avoid it !

      Do tell, what is your suggestion ? (and please, before you go there, the quantity of antibiotics consumed doesn't really matter, as long as we prevent large-scale infections with antibiotics resistence will grow. So the only way we could stop resistence is to protect only 1% (preferably less) of the population, and let plagues regularly destroy their breeding pool (tha

    • Clearly god wouldn't have changed the insects if the farmers were on god's good side, so they must have done something wrong. I suggest they sacrifice their first born to get him to change the insects back.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't know jackshit about biologic or agricultural but I have strong opinions about why this has happened, how it can be prevented, and how our farmers ought to grow the crops.
  • It only takes a small percentage of resistant organisms out of a population of potentially tens of millions( or should that be hundreds of millions in this case ) to pass on their resistant genes to the next generation and the "killer" gene in the plants is overcome. The only surprise here is that it hasn't happened sonner.
  • by Hartree (191324) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:35AM (#38523602)

    Maybe marketing types. But I seriously doubt many entomologists or crop scientists were saying that this was the "final solution" to rootworm or any other pests.

    In fact, they've been advising using non-bt planted in a certain number of acres near the bt ones to slow down the development of resistance.

  • All they need to do is make the corn produce MORE toxins than it already does, duh. They should hire me.
  • Thanks, Monsanto! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:58AM (#38523690)

    Organic gardeners saw this coming from the get-go - I remember a Mike McGrath (then editor in chief of Organic Gardening) editorial predicting it. Heck, we'd already seen this happen with badly managed organic farms - back in the 1990s, resistance had been seen in Diamondback moths on Hawaiian farms that sprayed B.t kurstaki repeatedly rather than just when monitoring indicated a need for spraying.

    The continued usefulness of organic/botanical pesticides has, in large part, been due to their lack of persistence in the environment. Inserting those genes into plants is basically making the pesticides persistent, which (obviously) leads to much quicker development of resistance on the part of the pests.

    The part of me that's a cynic wonders if this is what Monsanto had in mind all along... one less organic competitor to their stable of proprietary chemicals.

  • I'm shocked! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You mean life is adapting to an environmental pressure? Don't these insects realise they're in breach of Monsanto's patents?

    • Surely them insects had to reverse-engineer the toxins before developing a successful workaround?

      Lawyers Rejoice.

      Except for the fact that insects have no money.
      • by Issarlk (1429361)
        That's nothing a bank can't fix. We could save the economy, we just need to lend a few trillions to insects and get them back in a lawsuit.
  • by pbjones (315127)

    No Shit Sherlock!, You mean that they did NOT expect this to happen? gosh! /sarcasm

  • what does this stuff do in the human stomach & intestines? does it cause problems with the natural beneficial biological cultures & enzymes in the human digestive system? (i bet it does)
  • by plsenjy (2104800) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:00AM (#38524080)

    A couple months ago I drove Dr. Don Huber of Purdue from the airport to a field day (ag industry for product demo) being put on by my family's non-GMO seed firm in the Upper Midwest. He of course had already been hearing of this problem for a while (the plant pathology/development community is pretty small, and when something new crops up everyone is in the loop) but was (and still is) much more concerned with a different pathogen that's been cropping up slowly for the past few years at higher and higher rates. Personally, I am not a seedsman and can't explain it very well, besides saying that it's a bacteria that he has been linking to Roundup Ready plants (Roundup Ready is a gene that Monsanto inserts in all sorts of plants in order to make them resistant to a pungent herbicide, Roundup) that causes infertility in everything it touches and we're unsure of how to deal with it. This website explains the problem pretty well (ignore the activism associated with it, it should just be used as a teaching point) http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/sign/dr_hubers_warning/ [fooddemocracynow.org]

    What's really chilling is that our non-GMO firm does very well outside the US. This is because most country's will not allow GMO's to be planted in their country due to their lack of long-term testing of effects on humans. I can't remember the exact regulation but in the EU they only allow something like 10-15% of their foodstock to be GMO. In Japan they're not allowed to be planted at all. My dad (the non-GMO seedsman) always likes to tell this anecdote - that when asked why they won't plant any GMO corn, the Japanese grainsman says, "We are conservative with our food. We want to see what it does to your children's children before we'll even consider it."

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:11AM (#38524122)

    As Darwin himself said: "Well, *duh*. What did you expect?"

  • by dbc (135354) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @06:23AM (#38524178)

    My brother is a farm manager in Iowa, and he told me that Iowa has regulations where either 10% (or 20%, I forget which) of your rows must be "refuge rows", that is, if you plant a GMO variety, you need to plant non-GMO refuge rows in the same field so that the insects (or fungus or whatever you are fighting) has some place to go live where it then should not develop resistance. Overall it is still a win, because the GMO rows are more productive, and you can plant your refuge rows on fence rows and turn-around rows that never yield as well anyway.

    So... does anyone know of other states have refuge row regulations? Or is the % of refuge rows just not sufficient?

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:19AM (#38524378) Homepage Journal
    built into its genes ?

    and this is safe, because nothing has happened, YET ?

    Insects mutated/adapted to this in just years' time. What makes us exceptions despite we are living on the same planet ?
  • by wdef (1050680) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:21AM (#38524810)

    If insect evolution works like bacteria (and I don't know if it does), then if we stop growing this GM crop altogether for long enough, then insect DNA should "forget" how to defend against this toxin. Nature abhors waste, so useless genes tend to get jettisoned from the gene pool given enough generations with no selection pressure to keep them in. At least, this is what happens with antibiotic-resistant bacteria: if an antibiotic is not used at all for long enough, bacterial DNA "forgets" how to make the cell line resistant and it once again becomes vulnerable. Resistance is the reason penicillin became a lot less broadband than it originally was, and the resulting relative lack of use might mean it should become more effective again.

    This of course assumes that resistant strains have not already entered the wild and become widespread. With bacteria that is particularly problematic since bacteria can transfer resistance between different types of bacteria in a contagious fashion. An GM crops also have a habit of entering the wild, in which case we will be less able to reduce the exposure of insects to that crop, which might keep their resistance maintained. Disclaimer: I am not a biologist.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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