Survival of The Fittest: Mutant Worm Defeats Biotech GMO Corn Created to Kill It.
According to Wikipedia, “Survival of the fittest” is a?phrase?that originated in?evolutionary theory?as an alternative way of describing the mechanism of?natural selection. It is more commonly used today in other contexts, to refer to a supposed greater probability that “fit” as opposed to “unfit” individuals will survive.
The phrase was first used by Herbert Spencer after reading the ?On the Origin of Species? by Charles Darwin.
This phrase immediately came to my mind when I stumbled upon a report about a pest that has managed to mutate into a ?feeder? of the very crop ? a biotech genetically modified corn ? that was intended to annihilate this crop-destroying creature.
The report from Wired.com indicated that when scientists were able to create a biotech corn crop ? named Bt corn ? to destroy the dreaded corn rootworm, there was much jubilation as this rootworm caused the corn industry billions of dollars in lost crops annually.
The GMO corn called Bt corn (short for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene) which was successfully killing the corn rootworms, borers and other corn pests, is at present, grown in more than ? of the total corn crop areas in the United States.
Industry experts are now saying that because of the widespread use of Bt corn, and the lack of other diverse corn crops, the mutation of the corn rootworms into a resistant pest that actually feeds on the Bt corn is a formula for disaster for the corn industry.
The scientists behind the GMO corn are quick to point to everyone as the cause of the problem and absolves the Bt corn crop itself from this failure. They say that farmers, lawmakers, and corporations have mismanaged the system and have squandered the past benefits that Bt corn brought to the industry.
A scientist from the Iowa State University and the author of ? Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis?toxins in transgenic maize? said that ?Unless management practices change, it?s only going to get worse. There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.?
The GMO Bt corn was first used in 1996 and was very successful in destroying the corn rootworm and borers. After ten years, however, scientists already sounded the alarm bells that the corn rootworms were evolving and developing some resistance to the toxin in the Bt corn crop.
The scientists advised the farmers to maintain non-Bt corn crops in order for the corn rootworms to grow in these ?refuges? without developing the resistance to the GMO crop.
They recommended to the EPA that farms should keep a 50/50 ratio of Bt corn and non-Bt corn crops in order to prevent the evolution of the rootworms into GMO resistant pests.
The suggestion was opposed by corporations that were selling the Bt corn seeds and ?the EPA, then promulgated a voluntary policy that asked farms to maintain 5 to 10 % of their farm land to non-Bt corn.
It was reported that many farmers did not even follow the 5 to 10 % suggested policy.
The corn industry is now suffering the effects of such folly.
The ?mutant? corn rootworms have been devastating corn crops as early as 2009 in Iowa and current field reports show that they are becoming a big problem in South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota. These rootworms are said to be resistant to one variant of the 3 Bt corn types that are available to farmers.
The farmers have reportedly resorted to using pesticides, a practice that they have not utilized in the past years, in order to control the corn rootworms.
Many farmers still insist on using the Bt corn as this GMO crop is still very much successful in repelling other types of pests.
The renewed use of pesticides, however would negate the purpose of using Bt corn, which was created to produce environmental benefits by foregoing the use of chemicals in farming.
The scientists reiterate that they have written the EPA in 2012 that ? When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-?protected corn quickly disappear.?
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