A devastating pest, the Western Corn Rootworm, has evolved resistance to Monsanto’s Bt resistant corn. The corn, launched in 2003 and grown on some 37 million acres in 2011, is engineered to produce the fatal protein derived from a bacterium, bacillus thurigiensis, or Bt.
In a case where nature proves beyond a reasonable doubt that it will evolve to survive any attempts to eradicate pests the rootworm has become even more of a problem than it was previously.
Of course Monsanto instead of accepting blame for the evolving resistance has come up with a new solution, called Monsanto’s Genuity SmartStax line, which kills the worms with an additional protein.
Two counties in Illinois, and counties in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Iowa have so far reported that the western corn rootworm, is showing up in their fields despite rotating fields and planting Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co’s insecticidal corn.
Michael Gray an entomologist investigating the problem in Illinois said, in a report this week, that producers across a wide swath of the state will face a “formidable insect foe” capable of overcoming both crop rotation and the protein.
“The density of the western corn rootworm adults in both crops … was additional evidence that the Bt hybrids had failed to offer the necessary root protection,” Gray said in a statement.
The western corn rootworm costs American growers an estimated $1 billion a year in crop losses and preventative products.
“The corn rootworm is one of the most devastating pests to the U.S. corn yield,” said Luke Samuel, who’s in charge of corn insect traits for Monsanto, in an email response Wednesday. “Similar to years past, we’ve seen pockets of heavy corn rootworm pressure in isolated areas of Illinois and have been closely working with those farmers to address those issues through a series of best management practices.”
Those growers who don’t plant the product with the additional protein may have to use soil insecticides — the very practice that the Bt hybrids were intended to curb and which will increase insecticide and pesticide use astronomically.
Charles Benbrook, in a study issued last year by Washington State University, reported that Bt crops have, since their introduction, reduced insecticide use by 123 million pounds, or 28 percent.