GMO corn failing to protect fields from pest damage -report

Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:40pm EDT

Aug 28 (Reuters) - Researchers in the key corn-growing state of Illinois are finding significant damage from rootworms in farm fields planted in a rotation with a genetically modified corn that is supposed to protect the crop from the pests, according to a new report.

Evidence gathered from fields in two Illinois counties suggests that pest problems are mounting as the rootworms grow ever more resistant to efforts to fight them, including crop rotation combined with use of the biotech corn, according to the report issued by Michael Gray, a professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois.

Farmers across "a wide swath of Illinois" could face formidable challenges in protecting their corn crops from the hungry insects, Gray said in the Aug. 27 report.

The crop damage was found in fields where the specialized biotech corn had been planted in a rotation following soybeans, a practice which typically helps beat back the rootworm problems as western corn rootworm adults typically lay eggs in cornfields and not in soybean fields.

But a large number of adult western corn rootworms were collected in both the damaged corn fields and from adjacent soybean fields, Gray said.

Western corn rootworm is one of the most devastating corn rootworm species in North America, especially in the midwestern corn-growing areas. The rootworm larva feed on the roots of corn plants, reducing a plant's ability to grow normally, and can dramatically cut production.

Monsanto Co. introduced genetically modified corn designed to protect from the rootworms in 2003. The corn, which contains a protein referred to as "Cry3Bb1," has been popular with farmers in key growing areas around the country, and is supposed to reduce the need to put insecticides into the soil.

But last year, a group of academic corn experts warned the Environmental Protection Agency that they were worried about long-term corn production prospects because of growing resistance of the rootworm to the genetic modifications in corn.

Rodney Williamson, director of research and development with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, said there have been reports of resistance problems in Iowa but not to the level of concern seen in Illinois.

He stresses that farmers do not want to stop using the biotech corn because it helps reduce pesticide use, and said there was an effort underway to pursue various field and crop management practices to try to mitigate crop losses tied to rootworms.

"People are taking efforts to address it," he said. "Rotating modes of action, that will be one of the best things we can do."

A Monsanto official had no immediate response to a request for comment, but the company has said in the past that it is working with growers to address resistance concerns.

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Comments (2)
getthfacts wrote:
This is not really new in that it was expected that isnects were becoming resistant to this process. Before Bt the rootworms were becoming resistant to rotation. The solution is more different modes of action to stop the insect – some already in the market and some a few years away from launch and even later ones just in R&D (look at Monsanto’s R&D website for info. But this story comes up every uear because it is an issue and because the chemical companies (not Monsanto) want farmers to go back to using chemical insecticides. If more work was being encouraged on GM insect protection these constant upgrades to GM protection would be even more advanced but the anti-GM activitiest (including the organic activists and insecticides companies) don’t want that and Reuters and others will keep sucking up their sales pitches. Also I forgot to mention the academics who always want more money to fund their pockets – I agree they should have more money to do the research – getting to the truth and solutions is good. JUst sitting there and complaining is not helping

Aug 28, 2013 3:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ADKgrandma wrote:
“Life will find a way” – Dr Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park.

Aug 29, 2013 5:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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