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Biotech Science

Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests 259

An anonymous reader writes "Though warned by scientists that overuse of a variety of corn engineered to be toxic to corn rootworms would eventually breed rootworms with resistance to its engineered toxicity, the agricultural industry went ahead and overused the corn anyway with little EPA intervention. The corn was planted in 1996. The first reports of rootworm resistance were officially documented in 2011, though agricultural scientists weren't allowed by seed companies to study the engineered corn until 2010. Now, a recent study has clearly shown how the rootworms have successfully adapted to the engineered corn. The corn's continued over-use is predicted, given current trends, and as resistance eventually spreads to the whole rootworm population, farmers will be forced to start using pesticides once more, thus negating the economic benefits of the engineered corn. 'Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists.'"
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Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests

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  • Re:Surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xelah ( 176252 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:46AM (#46522785)

    Presumably there are other ways of reducing the pest population and ways of delaying resistance to this and to pesticides. Consider crop rotation, for example. Gardeners know that some plants shouldn't be planted in the same place year after year because the pest population increases over time (and because of the effect on the soil, and sometimes other reasons). I'm sure farmers know this, too. But if maize is the best paying crop and someone offers you these seeds as a way to continue to plant maize on a heavily infested area, what are you going to do?

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:25AM (#46522887) Journal

    Years ago (10 years or more)? There was a study about the arms race in agricultural pest control. The subject of this study was a genetically engineered crop that made its own poison, but that was not really relevant to the outcome of the study. Traditional spraying would have the same effect.

    It was discovered that poison did not only fight pests, it also helps pests. The non-resistant pest bugs were killed, but the resistant pest bugs were given a predator-free environment. This was important, because the poison resistance often comes with lower chances of survival in non-poisoned environments. For example, one poison had an impact on the nerve system, paralysing non-resistant bugs. Resistant bugs had a nerve system that worked much slower, so they would be a "sitting duck" in a natural environment.

    the study showed that if a certain portion of the land (recommended was 15% to 20%, which sound like a lot, but is peanuts compared to the 60% loss often found due to resistant pests) was planted with non-poisoned crops, the whole arms race could actually be stopped. The bugs would move between plants, and if they came on a poisoned plant they would be attacked by the poison, and if they came on a natural plant, they would be attacked by their natural predators.

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

    by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:26AM (#46522889)

    Diversity is the key. (Crop rotation is just one example.) The whole "mega-scale, mono-culture" approach to farming is flawed, and these GMO tweaks are just prolonging its inevitable demise. The future lies with smaller-scale, multi-species farms which more closely mimic the patterns found in nature.

    For example, put multiple crops in a single field, alternating several rows of each (depending on what equipment you're using), and interspersed with "islands" of other species whose purpose is to provide habitat for the predators of your pests. You might not get quite as much yield, but if you don't have to spend a dime on pesticide, you'll still come out ahead.

    It's a lot more sophisticated than I can explain here, but there are plenty of people doing this already, and it is growing in popularity. There are many different methods being developed, most of which fit under the umbrella of "permaculture" or "holistic management". Look at what Joel Salatin is doing at Poliface Farm in Virginia, or what Colin Seis is doing with "pasture cropping" in Australia, as just a couple of prominent examples.

    There are better ways to produce our food and fiber, it's just going to take a while to revolutionize the entire industry.

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

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:12AM (#46522997) Journal

    The problem with this model is, it's not friendly to automation. You can't harvest from a complex ecosystem with a petrol driven combine.

    But you can build custom forests that are filled with massive diversity of food crops, and it's not really any more work to gather your food from one than it is to go to the grocery store.

    These forests deliver way, way more food per acre than any conventional farming method, by a huge margin.

    Because they're built using perennial plants that will propagate themselves, once they're up, you never have to dig, and you never have to plant the earth.

    Because you fill all the available ecological niches with food bearing plants, you never have to weed, and you never have to use pesticides.

    Because they are stable ecosystems, once you put them together, barring fire or catastrophic weather events, they'll continue to abide for many generations of man.

    All these ridiculous claims about how the Earth is overpopulated are based on the assumption that we will continue to use existing farming techniques.

    The truth is, if we transitioned to this method of food production, we could completely abandon oil, increase our population into the trillions and the worlds ecosystems would not only be healthier than they are now, but they would be healthier than if mankind weren't around in the first place.

    But, for it to work, people need to stop thinking of food as something that comes from the store, and start thinking of it as something that comes from the forest. People need to go pick their food themselves.

    It's not more work. It won't take more time out of your day than the way you gather food now. It's just a change of lifestyle, and the quality of the food you eat goes up, and your health improves as a consequence.

    Regardless of what the rest of you do, it's my intention to build such a forest, build a home within it for myself, and another for my daughter and each of my future children. But it would be a much better world for all of us if you were inspired to do the same.

    I'm not saying you should download "The Complete Geoff Lawton Permaculture DVD Collection" off the pirate bay or anything, you should definitely buy a legitimate copy... but everything you need to know to get the ball rolling is in there ;)

  • Re:O RLY (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gtall ( 79522 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:32AM (#46523277)

    In your Libertarian nonsense, there are no public goods, or Commons. Everything is owned by somebody, including your grandmother. Every bit, byte, and nibble has a price. We have actuaries and accountants to keep track of it all, yep, even the data has a price, those actuaries and accountants do not work for free. In a Libertarian utopia, we'll all have Air Measures installed in our teeth and a monthly bill for how much air you breathe. And you'll have all the firearms and rocket launchers you need to prevent anyone from stealing from your pile of loot. And you'll need them too since not everyone will feel blessed in the Libertarian Paradise.

    And when you die, don't forget to settle up or your heirs will be inheriting much more than your mold and spore collection.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?