Top pest is developing resistance to corn plants bred to kill it
July 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson
Some Iowa corn growers who planted a genetically-modified variety called B-T corn are finding their plants no longer resist corn rootworms — and some crops are being badly damaged. Darwin Bettin, who farms in northwest Iowa’s Sac County, says he’s used B-T corn for a decade and it’s always kept away the pests, until now. “I could see corn laying down in my field and none of my neighbors fields,” Bettin says. “I was old enough, I told my wife, if I didn’t know better, that looks like rootworm damage.”
Since the corn was bred by Monsanto to resist rootworms, farmers didn’t have to use pesticides. Now, some are resorting back to chemicals as the insect has developed a resistence to the B-T corn. While the trend is a setback for farmers, it’s a boon for farm chemical makers like Philadelphia-based F-M-C, where spokesman Aaron Locker says profits are up. Locker says, “FMC reported a 9% increase in first quarter sales in its agriculture solutions business and 20% increase in fourth 4th quarter sales.” That’s due in part to the resistance in corn rootworms.
Bettin lost half his crop to rootworm damage and says his local seed dealer refunded some of his money, but not Monsanto. Bettin says, “As much money as those companies have made off of us selling us those traits over the years, I think they’d be willing to step up to the plate when their trait doesn’t work.” A spokesman for B-T maker Monsanto says the company is investing millions of dollars in research to bring new products to market. The federal E-P-A says it could restrict the future use of B-T seed, but Monsanto is working to introduce new varieties while encouraging farmers to rotate crops.