KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. is working with a “handful” of farmers to rein in problems with corn pests that appear to be growing resistant to the company’s popular corn seed product that is genetically engineered to protect against insect damage.
Recent news reports of resistance problems in top corn-producing states of Iowa and Illinois have fueled investor concerns. The company is already struggling to address weed resistance problems related to its herbicide-tolerant genetically altered crops.
But Brett Begemann, Monsanto executive vice president, said Thursday that the corn rootworm resistance problems were “small” and “unique.”
“This is not a new situation,” Begemann said in an address to the UBS investor conference. “Our rootworm product has been out there for many years. In a handful of situations, I mean a handful - around 100 farmers a year - they find themselves where they’ve been growing corn on corn... in the hot spot areas of rootworm in northeast Iowa and northern Illinois where the product simply gets overwhelmed by the pressure of the insects in the fields.”
The corn in question is Monsanto’s “Bt” corn, which has been genetically engineered to contain an insect-killing protein.
Researchers at both Iowa State University and the University of Illinois have been researching the problem amid farmer complaints.
Begemann said Monsanto was working with farmers and suggesting that farmers limit pest problems by rotating corn and soybean crops rather than growing corn year after year as more farmers have been doing as corn prices surge. Pesticides can also help, and Begemann said the company’s new multi-gene “Smartstax” corn seed should also help fight back pest resistance.
“We have been watching it. It’s not spreading. It’s not getting bigger,” Begemann said.
Reporting by Carey Gillam;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid