Saturday, 22 March 2014

conqueror worm

Wired Magazine reports on how a genetically engineered variety of maize designed specifically to kill one of the crop's biggest plagues, the corn root-worm (a beetle belonging to the genus appropriately named Diabrotica), has lost its efficacy. Accounting currently for some seventy-five percent of the US, the bio-tech harvest has been a casualty of its own success and wide-spread adoption, which in a text-book demonstration of accelerated natural selection, caused the pest to evolve by making dominate the mutation that accorded a small population of the worms resistance to the targeted toxin.

Now the majority of the worms are immune and poised to lay waste to the farmers' fields. Surely, there were more hard-nosed tactics in turning growers towards these patented seeds, forcing a whole lifestyle and licensing agreement on the farmers along with the crops, as well, but one other selling-point was that by not having to use chemical pesticides, there would be less negative environmental impact—without considering the effects that mono-culturing and cross-contamination might pose for the ecology. The industry could do without this sort of publicity, which forebodes a food-supply more vulnerable than it was before and evaporating benefits from all their research and government lobbying. Researchers are urging more refuges of natural corn be mingled in the huge tracts of GM crops, sort of as firebreaks to attract pests, as they originally urged, but I think its probably too late for containment and such a practise what have over unforeseen consequences besides. I suspect that human tinkering with genes, especially when it comes to food, has other chinks in its armour that no one in the business want to go public.