Scientists have warned the Environmental Protection Agency that Monsanto's "rootworm resistant" seed is now losing its resistance and is liable to cause crop failures.
Corn production in the US is essential, not only for food, but also animal feed and ethanol production. Farmers increasingly rely on genetically modified corn, which is alleged to be toxic to plant-damaging pests, such as rootworm.
Reuters reports that Monsanto's rootworm-protected products are losing their effectiveness.
Joseph Spencer, a corn entomologist with the Illinois Natural History survey (part of the University of Illinois) was quoted as saying: "This is not something that is a surprise... but it is something that needs to be addressed."
Spencer, along with 22 other academic corn experts, sent a letter on 5 March 2012 to the EPA advising regulators that they are concerned about long-term corn production prospects. They say that this is due to a failure of the genetic modifications in the corn to protect against rootworm.
This particular strain of GMO corn contains a protein which is referred to as "Cry3Bb1", and was first released in 2003.
The corn product was popular with farmers in key growing areas around the US. Corn is one of Monsanto's major biotech products and a key driver of sales. The product is intended to reduce the need to place insecticides in the soil, by making the corn plants toxic to the rootworms.
However, plant scientists have recently discovered evidence that the genetic modification is losing effectiveness, and in fact is now making the plants more vulnerable to rootworm damage with potential crop failures and production losses. Farms in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota have so far reported this problem.
In their letter to the Environmental Protection Agency the scientists stated that this problem should be acted upon "carefully, but with a sense of some urgency."
Monsanto has recommended that farmers rotate the corn crop with another of its biotech products, soybeans, or use another biotech corn product together with insecticides to try and solve this problem.
Danielle Stuart, a spokeswoman for Monsanto said: "Rootworm performance inquiries in 2011 were isolated to less than 0.2 percent of the acres planted with Monsanto rootworm-traited corn hybrids. In all of these cases, Monsanto is working very closely with the farmer and has provided best management practices for the upcoming season on each of these fields. "
However, scientists stress that continuing to plant a failing technology can only increase risk of the development of resistance. They further state that this particular rootworm-protected corn is being planted in areas that do not really need protection against rootworm. This occurs because there are so few alternative seed options available these days, with Monsanto gradually taking over the market.
They also stress that using insecticides on the genetically modified corn is not a good idea as it not only elevates production costs but also masks the severity and extent of the resistance being built against it by insects.
They wrote: "Recommendations to apply insecticides to protect transgenic BT corn rootworm corn strikes us as a clear admission that the Cry3Bb1 toxin is no longer providing control adequate to protect yield."
"When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-protected corn quickly disappear," the scientists wrote.
Reuters advises that the director of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, to whom the letter was addressed, could not be reached for comment.
However, Nation of Change also reported on this problem. They advise that the EPA has already acknowledged the fact that Monsanto's GMO crops are creating resistant rootworms. These mutated rootworms are damaging the crops as they are now evolving to resist the bio pesticide, known as Bacillus thuringgiensis (BT).
It is said that after the Environmental Protection Agency evaluated reports from entomologists and also documented cases of severe crop damages, they stated: “Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is ‘inadequate’”.
With more and more evidence is coming to light including superbugs and superweeds, it seems that if you mess with nature, nature will always adjust to fight back.