Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Rotating crops beats agrotoxins as bugs beat GM

For thousands of years, farmers beat pests by rotating their crops, or placing them next to carefully-selected plants which kept the bugs away. Then came the wonderful world of agrotoxins ... but the bugs beat the best that GM biotechnology could throw at them. The latest advice to farmers is...wait for it...go back to rotating crops.

In the latest edition of Nature magazine* the article by Brian Owens "Pests worm their way into genetically modified maize" the following claim is made: "Broadening of rootworm resistance to toxins highlights the importance of crop rotation". In a nutshell, the article highlights the importance of using age-old agricultural traditions as a means to beat the bugs which feed off our crops.

The article is based upon research which led to the discovery of resistance to bio-tech pesticides by a species of beetle which feeds on maize (corn). The research was carried out by a team led by the entomologist Dr. Aaron Gassmann of Iowa State University, who discovered that the western corn rootworm has become resistant to agrotoxins added to corn.

The research team discovered that the rootworm, or Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte, is resistant to two of three types of Bacillus thurinigiensis (Bt) toxin, which is produced by maize (corn) that has been genetically modified. Furthermore, it appears that the resistance the beetle has developed to one type of toxin, protects it against another, more recently developed type of product.

As Dr. Gassmann points out, "It's a substantial part of the available technology," since the beetle has developed resistance to two out of the three available GM products on the market, namely the Bt toxins Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A. These toxins were introduced in the USA in 2003, but by 2009, GM maize (corn) had already shown signs of rootworm damage, spreading to other GM crops with mCry3A by 2011.

Another result of the research was that the rootworm can develop quickly in fields where the same crops (even GM crops) are grown (rootworm was discovered after 3.6 years in a field of GM maize (corn) in Iowa.

The bottom line of the research and the main point of the article in Nature magazine is that rotation must be part of an integral process of pest management and that GM by itself is not enough.


A suggestion: Why not rely on natural pest management methods altogether, do away with Genetically Modified crops, whose full effects on our health and an enigma to all, and use methods which farmers had been using for many thousands of years - natural methods - inn use before the pharmaceutical lobbies took control of policy on an international scale?


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey