Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.
The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.
Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.
Adds the Journal, with delightful un-self-consciousness:
The discovery comes amid a debate about whether the genetically modified crops that now saturate the Farm Belt are changing how some farmers operate in undesirable ways.
This from Money’s favorite morning paper.
But wait, there’s already a proposed solution, says Sarah Laskow at grist.org (my emphasis):
Scientists are already working on a new way to make buggies regret they ever thought for a second about eating corn: it’s called RNA interference, and it builds genetic code into plants that turns off essential genes of any bugs that eat it. At least, we hope it only applies to bugs.
RNA interference — what could possibly go wrong?