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Improved Compliance Needed to Ensure Long-term Efficacy of Transgenic Crops

Diabrotica virgifera virgifera or western corn rootworm is a serious threat to corn farming causing widespread destruction to the roots of plants from feeding larvae. Transgenic strains of corn were developed to leverage toxin producing genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as an insecticide.

Bt delta endotoxin has been in use since the 1960’s as a direct application insecticide and saw it’s first large-scale deployments as a transgenic GMO in 2003.  By 2010, over 143 million acres (58 million hectares) were planted in the United States.  Bt corn posses Bt delta endotoxin in varying concentrations throughout the plant body.  When an insect comes into contact with Bt delta endotoxin the protein bonds with internal organs (gut) causing a structural breakdown there by releasing bacteria into the bloodstream causing septicemia and death.

The promise of Bt corn among other things is a reduction to the level of insecticide required during growing seasons which in turn modify the cost and operating expenditures of agribusinesses across the United States.  Many health and environmental advocates target insecticide use as a major problem and a reduction in use may be seen as a welcome change in the corn industry’s methodology.

Proper management of Bt corn planting is essential in ensuring that this resource remains a viable deterrent to the western corn rootworm and other pests for as long a period of time as possible.  A high-dose/refuge method for maintaining the efficacy of Bt corn involves setting aside ‘refuge’ plantings of non-Bt corn preventing selective pressure from building, keeping genetic populations dilute in terms of resistance.  The high-dose/refuge practice which was highly effective until the 1990’s saw a dramatic loss of efficacy.

Recent investigations have shown that fields infested with Bt-resistant strains of D. virgifera virgifera were associated with insufficient or non-compliant refuge plantings of non-Bt corn.  Recent surveys throughout the Midwest have estimated that merely 50-70% of farming operations are compliant.

More emphasis on proper management of Bt corn is needed to ensure that this advanced bioinsecticide realizes it’s full potential not only for business concerns but to also ensure that agribusiness is able to keep pace with an exploding global population in the decades to come.  It is hard to ignore the fact that the campaign against the western rootworm is simply one of many battles fought waged by agriculture in the modern age and discipline and strict adherence to proscribed polices for management

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One Response to Improved Compliance Needed to Ensure Long-term Efficacy of Transgenic Crops

  1. Artson October 30, 2011 at 11:48 AM #

    You haven’t clearly explained ‘compliant’ and ‘non-compliant’, and without a clear understanding of those terms, the reader is at a loss.

    I am, anyway.

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