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Bug Science

Planting GMOs Kills So Many Bugs That It Helps Non-GMO Crops (arstechnica.com) 282

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: One of the great purported boons of GMOs is that they allow farmers to use fewer pesticides, some of which are known to be harmful to humans or other species. Bt corn, cotton, and soybeans have been engineered to express insect-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, and they have indeed been successful at controlling the crops' respective pests. They even protect the non-Bt versions of the same crop that must be planted in adjacent fields to help limit the evolution of Bt resistance. But new work shows that Bt corn also controls pests in other types of crops planted nearby, specifically vegetables. In doing so, it cuts down on the use of pesticides on these crops, as well.

Entomologists and ecologists compared crop damage and insecticide use in four agricultural mid-Atlantic states: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Their data came from the years before Bt corn was widespread (1976-1996) and continued after it was adopted (1996-2016). They also looked at the levels of the pests themselves: two different species of moths, commonly known as the European corn borer and corn earworm. They were named as scourges of corn, but their larvae eat a number of different crops, including peppers and green beans. After Bt corn was planted in 1996, the number of moths captured for analysis every night in vegetable fields dropped by 75 percent. The drop was a function of the percentage of Bt corn planted in the area and occurred even though moth populations usually go up with temperature. So the Bt corn more than counteracted the effect of the rising temperatures we've experienced over the quarter century covered by the study.

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Planting GMOs Kills So Many Bugs That It Helps Non-GMO Crops

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  • Insect's revenge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Thursday March 15, 2018 @11:54PM (#56267757)
    We already have roundup-resitant amaranth. I can't wait for BT resistant insects.
    • Re:Insect's revenge (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @12:43AM (#56267867)

      We already have roundup-resitant amaranth. I can't wait for BT resistant insects.

      BT-resistant moths were found in Hawaii about 20 years ago, and were the likely result of an organic farmer who overused the pesticide/bacterium/whatever you want to call it.

      Overuse of any pesticide, organic or not, leads to resistance - and embedding Bt into plants basically qualifies as overuse. Planting a monoculture of GMO corn in the same spot, year after year, surrounded by non-GMO corn growing in the same spot, year after year, is almost certainly going to lead to Bt becoming useless in the fairly short term.

      • Maybe they should make it hard to overuse?
      • Resistance is inevitable for broad spectrum pesticides. Not all resistance mechanisms will be highly energetically unfavorable, eventually all control mechanisms will fail. Nature works with millions of narrow spectrum pesticides, slowly becoming less effective while new ones evolve (or occasionally species go extinct when a pest is suddenly unopposed, no problem, millions more where that come from). Humans accelerate this by orders of magnitude by just spamming a handful of broad spectrum pesticides. We sp

    • There's some trickery that is done with refuges and GMOs, to try to slow down the insect population's ability to resist bt toxins and their family members, but yes, ultimately there will be resistance to any and all pesticides and herbicides: The best we can hope for is good agronomy to slow it down, but that's difficult to enforce, as the behaviors that mitigate the risk also lower yields, and ignoring this kind of risk for a bit more yield this year is very tempting.

      In practice, what is supposed to happen

    • Bt resistant insects have emerged, and yes, it is a problem because it threatens to erode the benefits GE crops have already provided. This isn't a case against genetic engineering though, it is a case for better management of genetic resources. Anti-GMO groups like to harp on this point because on the surface it sounds very reasonable (ignoring that you can't claim something has no benefit while also claiming that the benefits are diminishing), but this exact same thing can and does occur conventionally
    • by fedos ( 150319 )
      People have been using Bt for nearly a hundred years. Yes, insects become resistant. Guess what, though? They use different strains of Bt to fight the insects that have become resistant to the older strains. Likewise, they can make changes to the Bt genes used in future crops.
  • Bees are bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @12:22AM (#56267821)
    Just in case anyone thought that a bug-free world would be a wonderful thing.
    • Just in case anyone thought that a bug-free world would be a wonderful thing.

      And imagine how deep we'd be in elephant shit w/o the dung beetle [wikipedia.org].

    • by fedos ( 150319 )
      Since bees don't eat the leaves of plants, I don't see how you think that's relevant.
  • It doesn't matter how many studies there are that show the good effects of GMO, people will still oppose them, and mostly for irrational reasons. Furthermore, they will ignore the times when natural foods are harmful or when non-gmo has ended up with poisonous foods. Again, for mostly irrational reasons.
    • by Kneo24 ( 688412 )

      I'm against GMO's until the owners of said GMO's stop trying to sue the shit out of farmers for incidental cross pollenization of crops. It's 100% out of their control and is a natural occurrence. If we could untangle GMO's from that shit, you'd see much less resistance to it.

      • Re:it doesn't matter (Score:4, Informative)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @08:25AM (#56268743) Journal

        I'm against GMO's until the owners of said GMO's stop trying to sue the shit out of farmers for incidental cross pollenization of crops

        No one has done that. You're a victim of propaganda. If you're talking about Bowman v Monsanto, it wasn't incidental cross pollenization.

        • Was that the one where a farmer bought non-GMO seed soy, hosed it all down with round-up on the theory that it was mixed (i.e. an overstock of GMO seed leads to dumping, so regular seed will have some GMO), then propagated the survivors?
      • Please show one lawsuit of that. Just one.
  • by no-body ( 127863 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @01:58AM (#56268001)
    All other aspects are secondary or non-existent wiped under the table.
    It cannot be what may not be is the policy.
    The minds of the actors in this game are convoluted and corrupt.
    Good luck!
  • by edittard ( 805475 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @06:45AM (#56268509)

    Planting GMOs Kills So Many Bugs That It Helps Non-GMO Crops

    In other words, we expect you to pay up even if you don't use them.

  • by Jahta ( 1141213 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @08:18AM (#56268719)

    Well when you considering that "Flying Insects Have Been Disappearing Over the Past Few Decades, Study Shows [slashdot.org]" and that "Even Common Species Are Becoming Rare [slashdot.org]", this may not such good news after all.

    • Much of that is from habitat destruction. This is even true where you might not notice. For example: in Florida and Virginia, because of some poorly-written Federal laws and European trade behaviors, we tear down complex native forests and replant them with pine monoculture. The replant should be a semi-natural using the same native species and attempting to encourage sparse repopulation in a first pass followed by natural spread to fill.

  • We poisoned the food instead. But don't worry, they say this poison is friendly. Friendly to us, our bodies, our guys, our microbiome, our unborn children, to plants and insects we need to survive, to our ecology.

    Like Casper, the friendly ghost.

  • (for varying values of Monsanto)

    They already do it when the seeds drift.
    If they can show the benefit of the GE crop has drifted they will assign a value to that benefit and send a lawyer and an invoice.

    https://www.vanityfair.com/new... [vanityfair.com]

    • by bahwi ( 43111 )

      That article profiles Gary Rinehart. The suit against him was dropped, once it was determined his nephew was the one planting seed on Gary's property (with permission). The seed was patented seed (despite non-patented varieties being available, including saving seed if they liked).

      Because Gary refused to talk to the lawyers to settle this before going to court (he kicked them out in ~ 2 minutes) they had no choice but to take it to court. Again, they dropped the case, and identified someone who was in viola

  • Not judging the GMO debate here. This could be linked to the problem with giant monoculture. Of course with only one species grown on large areas, the respective pest will strive. Here we have multiple species, engineered to be nearly the same except for bug resistance, so the bug population is kept under control. Before we had smaller areas, with completely different species, some of those who also did not share the same bugs and the result was the same: more bug diversity, which also means less of the bad
    • Sterile GMO bug killing plants YOU DO NOT EAT which exist solely to kill pests!
      No contamination, corps get their money replanting without banning sane farming (seed collection, replanting, not infecting the genepool ,etc.)

      Time for the rodent eating venus fly trap mixed with snake DNA!
      How about a spider plant-- made with real spider DNA?
      Scarecrow plants... ah, no... we didn't put in human DNA... (hey, did that plant just move towards us?)

      Instead of wasting efforts to hide harm done to our foods by biohacking

  • You hypothesize, you experiment, and then comes the bit that a lot of people struggle with - you LEARN. And then, the even harder bit, you don't repeat the mistakes.

    GMO, as practiced in the early days, was a disastrous mistake.

    GMO, as practiced now, is not peer-reviewed, is patented to prevent testing of claims, and is wrapped in trade secrets. That puts it closer to witchcraft than science.

    GMO, as it could be done, would be properly and independently tested, peer-reviewed and would not involve non-specific

  • Planting BT GMOs kills most Moths and Butterflies in the area around the field, as well as in it.
    Moths and butterflies are pollinators, so killing most of them means killing most of their pollinated plants.
    Many pollinated plants have very specific pollinators, so killing the moths and butterflies kills the pollinated plants.
    Many times, if the species is not wiped out, the bugs will develop resistance in the survivors.
    So eventually some of the bugs could come back slowly, in areas not inclement to the bugs.
    A

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