New research from the University of Arizona has shown us yet another example of the many ways in which GMO-crops (genetically modified organisms) fail to live up to the hype.
In this case, the research found that the efficacy of pest control via GMO-use has been notably exaggerated — and that many assumptions about the technology/approach and its effectiveness against common pests simply don’t match up with reality. These assumptions have been “overly optimistic” — as the researchers put it.
While no one that’s looked into the actual track-record of GMO-crops very deeply should be surprised by this, the new research is still, of course, quite welcome — and clearly shows another chink in the rhetorical armor, so to speak.
Health Heathen provides some thoughts and more information:
There’s a level of “optimism” and hype that often accompanies discussions concerning GMO-crops that seems as though it would be far more at home in the world of marketing & sales, than in the scientific community — something that this new research shows is for good reason. Much of the talk surrounding GMO-crops is simply hype — ‘could of, would of, should of’, etc.
Here’s a bit of background on the technology — some of the first GMO (transgenic) crops to be grown commercially were those that were “engineered” to produce proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as a means of pest resistance. While this for a short-time worked to some degree or other, ‘pest’ populations rapidly came to be dominated by those resistant to the toxin(s) — greatly diminishing the effectiveness of the approach, if not nullifying it completely.
In response to that, many biotech companies introduced Bt-crops making use of “pyramids” — producing multiple Bt-toxins in the same crop, all active against the same pest(s). This practice has been widespread throughout the US, India, Australia — and many other places — since 2003.
This practice is what the new research focused on — the researchers “analyzed data from 38 studies that report effects of 10 Bt toxins used in transgenic crops against 15 insect pests” — with the intent of determining the true effectiveness of the practice in the real world.
What the ressrchers found was that “in many cases, the crops’ actual efficacy against pests did not live up to the expectations used to inform computer-simulation-models that aim to predict the evolution of pest resistance. Thus, the simulations could underestimate how quickly pests adapt to Bt crops and lead to inadequate management guidelines.”
“If each toxin is highly effective on its own and two toxins act independently, the pyramid should kill at least 99.75% of the Bt-susceptible pests,” stated Carrière, a professor of entomology in the UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “In other words, fewer than three of every thousand susceptible insects should survive.”
Unfortunately for proponents of GMOs, this isn’t even close to what actually happens.
“Scrutinizing the scientific literature, Carrière and Tabashnik discovered that this assumption was met only in about half of the cases. They also found that, contrary to the ideal scenario typically assumed, selection for resistance to one toxin in a pyramid often causes cross-resistance to another toxin in the pyramid.”
What a surprise, the words that have come out of the mouth of someone out of someone benefitting monetarily from something don’t match reality. Who’d have expected such a thing?
Too bad for us, unfortunately, then that the higher-ups at many biotechs are in a revolving-door agreement with the government — it’s not just a matter of predatory businesses going after you, it’s predatory businesses that are friends with the law-makers.
The new research was detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
For more information on GMOs, see: