The Independent – by CHRISTOPHER HOOTON
Nature has fought back against biotechnology, with rootworms now being able to stomach corn that was genetically modified to poison the pests.
While an awe-inspiring demonstration of nature’s endurance, the development could cause billions of dollars worth of damage to US crops.
Named after the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis it contains, Bt corn makes up 75% of the US’s corn crop, but scientists’ predictions that rootworms would evolve to overcome the poison were largely ignored by farmers, companies and regulatory bodies, who have been accused of “squandering the benefits of genetic modification.”
Bt corn was first planted in 1996 as an alternative to insecticides which cause more ecological damage, and quickly caused the numbers of the voracious worm to plummet.
Bt corn makes up 75% of US corn crops (Picture: Getty)
By the turn of the millennium scientists were warning of the huge problems there would be if the rootworms adapted to survive Bt toxin however, leaving the beetles with a whole field in which to reproduce.
“Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,” Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist, told Wired. “There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.”