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Biotech Science

Insects Rapidly Becoming Resistant To GM Corn 368

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

  • 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...

  • 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?
  • 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 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.
  • 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 on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:10AM (#38523726)

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

  • by repapetilto ( 1219852 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @04:54AM (#38523866)

    Your comment was so vague that either:

    1) You don't know what you are talking about
    2) You are delusional and think the what you just posted was offering useful information
    3) You're social circles do not contain anyone who argues with you
    4) etc
    5) Some combination of the above

    At least offer a link to a "journal" article so we know what you mean.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 AT yahoo DOT com> 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.

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

    by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeever@nerds[ ] ['hac' in gap]> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:32AM (#38524428)
    There's no disease pressure to speak of on Western populations, yet the developed West is characterized by zero to slightly negative population growth.

    If you want to get Africa's population growth in check, eliminate disease and eliminate famine. One you take away the visible and very real threat of most of a mother's children not living to reproductive age, she'll stop having half a dozen of them.
  • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:56AM (#38524708) Homepage

    They even sue farmers that DONT use GM crops that try and keep seeds. anyone with a seed cleaner is sued out of existence, and farmers that plant non GM crops typically get sued because the wind blew and the GM crops a 1/4 mile away pollinated a portion of his crops.

    Monsanto needs to be put out of business, they are the most evil company ever existed next to banks and Dick Cheney.

  • 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.

  • Re:Jeff Goldblum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:38AM (#38524912)

    Since all of them have an absolutely tiny occurrence in children - cancer being sightly higher than the rest - these afflictions do very little to stem our population growth rate. People who die from these things have often lived passed the age of reproduction. All they do is help to even out the final number.

  • 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.

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison