GMO corn from Monsanto created this mutant insect

photo credit: jwinfred via photopin cc

Monsanto’s GMO corn was designed to kill pests without using any pesticides, but Mother Nature had some different ideas. Now we’re stuck with a mutant insect that not only survives just fine after eating a GMO snack, but requires copious amounts of insecticides to get rid of. Thanks, Monsanto. And how convenient that you also happen to sell pesticide.

The bug in question is the rootworm, one of many insects that the GMO crop Bt corn is supposed to destroy. The corn is modified to contain Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxic bacteria that damages insects’ digestive systems. Lovely. Right now, Bt corn makes up about 75 percent of corn crops in the United States — so unless you’re buying organic, you’re probably eating it.

Bt corn worked, for a while. Wired calls it “one of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories [that] may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.”

The GMO Mutant Could Have Been Avoided

The frustrating thing is that Bt resistance could have been avoided if farmers made at least half of their corn non-GMO. This would have allowed rootworms from both fields to mate, diluting the resistant genes. But Monsanto and other GMO-seed giants fought regulation that would have ensured these practices — so sure enough, we have resistant bugs.

Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann co-authored a recent study on the problem, and told Wired, “Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse. There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.”

With the government in Monsanto’s pocket, I wouldn’t count on regulations anytime soon. But one thing we can bet on is that farmers will be drowning their crops in toxic pesticides to kill the resistant rootworm, negating any benefit that the GMO corn had in the first place. But farmers still probably won’t ditch the Bt corn, according to The Raw Story, because it does still kill other pests…for now.

For those of us who care about health and the planet, this mess is just one more reason to choose organic food whenever possible. But it’s also a lesson on what happens when corporations buy their way out of government regulations, and its not pretty.