Corn field

Adding to the controversy over the sustainability of genetically modified organisms comes news that some bugs are now becoming resistant to Monsanto marketed GMO corn with pesticides built into its DNA.

An article in the August 29th, 2011 Wall Street Journal reveals that Iowa State University entomologists discovered rootworms that appear to have evolved to resist the GMO corn’s pesticide, at least in four northeast Iowa fields.

The Iowa State researchers found rootworm beetles in fields that had been growing the Cry3Bb1 corn for at least three years. When their larvae were fed that same corn, they had three times the chances of survival than the control group.

This pest resistance comes just weeks after news of the discovery of “superweeds” also showing resistance to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup pesticide, and causing damage to crops and farm equipment. As well, a never-before-seen potentially harmful pathogen appearing in livestock fed GMO grains was discovered earlier this year.

Monsanto, which represents approximately 90 percent of the biotech crops grown in the world, was the first to sell GMO corn specifically designed to be rootworm-resistant. This seed now makes up nearly one-third of all corn grown on U.S. soil.

Prior to GMO seeds, farmers rotated crops, which would starve pests like the corn-loving rootworm when in an off-season. But with the promise of GMO pest-resistant seeds and a booming ethanol industry came the financial incentives for farmers to grow corn year after year and stop rotation. And, it appears, the shift was also good news for the rootworm who in just a few seasons has learned how to survive exposure to the crystalline protein called Cry3Bb1 found in the GMO corn designed to tear apart its guts.

To battle the issue of rootworms, farmers may revert to “insect-proof” seeds and using harsher pesticides to protect their crops from infestation, which means more toxins in the food, air, water and soil.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

image: erjkprunczyk