NPR's Dan Charles reports in his article, "Insect Experts Issue 'Urgent' Warning On Using Biotech Seeds," that 22 of the nation's top experts on corn pests have sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking for urgent action to address the failure of Monsanto's genetically engineered insecticide-producing Bt crops.
In several different places across the corn belt, corn rootworms have developed resistance to an inserted gene that is supposed to kill them. Now, in order to slow down or prevent the spread of resistance, scientists are calling for big changes in the way Monsanto does business.
The researchers want seed companies to give farmers a non-GMO option and stop routinely inserting insecticide-producing genes into all of their most productive seed lines. According to the letter, Monsanto has left farmers with "few options" -- even in some areas where rootworms don't pose a serious problem.
The researchers are calling on farmers in some parts of the country to stop planting corn with insecticide-producing genes altogether, or to plant such corn only intermittently.
The scientists' credentials are impressive. The letter is signed by most of the non-corporate researchers who are currently trying to evaluate the extent and consequences of corn rootworm resistance.
The economic consequences of widespread corn rootworm resistance to genetically engineered crops could be enormous. Farmers who want to plant corn on their fields every year -- and even farmers in some areas who rotate corn and soybeans -- would be forced to rely on chemical insecticides. But Paul Mitchell, at the University of Wisconsin, says those insecticides don't work very well, and yields could suffer. Any significant dip in the corn harvest, Mitchell says, could produce "a huge spike" in the price of corn.
Some farmers could adopt other ways to control rootworm, rotating their fields into crops where corn rootworms cannot easily survive, such as wheat or alfalfa. But Porter says that's simply not an option for many farmers; they have to plant the most profitable crop -- corn -- in order to compete economically. "A lot of the time, farming is run by bankers now," he says.
Two experts who were not part of the group that sent the most recent letter, Fred Gould of North Carolina State University and Bruce Tabashnik, at the University of Arizona, have called on the EPA to require farmers to plant much larger "refuges" of corn that is not toxic to rootworms.
While these are all practical suggestions for farmers, there's another issue with the over-use of Monsanto's insectide-producing GMO crops. Those of us who eat them are being exposed to the insecticide-producing Bt gene. We might as well be lab rats!
The insecticide-producing Bt gene has been detected in the blood of pregnant women, their fetuses and non-pregnant women in Canada who ate typical diets.
Health concerns have caused seven countries in the European Union, Austria, Hungary, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Bulgaria, to ban Monsanto's Bt crops.New scientific research revealing the health risks of Bt crops has spurred France and Germany to seek an E.U.-wide ban. The new research follows up on a Monsanto study where rats fed the corn showed evidence of liver and kidney toxicity, providing evidence that the engineered Bt gene actually kills human cells
In China, which has yet to approve any GMO grains, legislation has been introduced that would prevent the applicaiton of genetically-modified technologies to staple foods. As in the E.U., the concern is the health hazards of GMO foods.
If you care about the future of agriculture and the protection of human health, please write to the EPA today, demanding a total ban on insecticide-producing GMO crops.