GMO-Crops Don’t Live Up To The Hype With Regards To Pest Control, Research Shows

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.

Corn Field

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:

GMO Crop Failure — African Caterpillars Develop Resistance To GMO Corn

The Economic Argument Against GMOs: a Top Ten List

GMO Herbicide-Resistant Crops Have Led To Massive Increases In Herbicide Use Thanks To ‘Super Weeds,’ Study Finds

GMO Cotton Loses Its Natural Defenses As A Result Of Less Competition With Their Primary Natural Pests

5 thoughts on “GMO-Crops Don’t Live Up To The Hype With Regards To Pest Control, Research Shows”

  1. Tabashnik has worked on Bt resistance for many years before he started his work he believed in cross resistance which made sense that it would be resent as before GM crops Bts were used in the organic industry and they knew that insects could become resistant. His data fails to detract from the fact that the products work. yes insects become resistant (speed depends on the insects and crop) but seed cos are replacing with better

  2. See my other comments about reality versus this nonsense. There is also no revolving door. If someone has evidence that a person is government is on the take from industry they need to act like an adult and tell all. The only person mentioned – and mentioned for the last 15 years or so has been Michael Taylor who used to work for Monsanto – took a pay cut and has worked constantly for the FDA for many years now. he works his butt off and the idiot like the author suggest some corruption. The real corruption is in articles like this.

    Most come from the organic industry determined to try to convince people to pay more for organic food and yet can’t get the evidence their products actually do any better

  3. James, I believe you are missing the point of the Carriere Nature Biotechnology paper. The authors do some excellent work to explain a mechanism of resistance based on similarity of important amino acids between different BT proteins. In the final paragraph of the paper the authors state “The findings reported in this Analysis provide specific, quantitative descriptions of the association between toxin similarity in domains II and III and key factors affecting resistance evolution, which could be used to improve choices of toxins for enhancing pyramid durability. We hope that these results will be useful to both modelers and plant breeders for optimizing pyramids for sustainable pest management”.

    They are providing data and a model that can be used to make better choices about the appropriate BT proteins to pyramid as well as to design the mandated refuge plans required to maximize the longevity of the engineered resistance. Rather than condemning the use of engineering BT protein-derived resistance, they are pointing the direction to use it more effectively.

    1. Anti-GMO activists do like to misrepresent the facts. They have to, otherwise they have nothing to work with. I think James is deliberately “missing the point.”

    2. correct – once again the anti-Gm activists – usually people with no science training take fact and twist it. There are Bts that are similar an insect resting to one is resistant to both but the best combinations (that are developed or being developed) are very different and hence no cross-resistance.

      even if you use no Bts and try something seemingly perfect – like rotating corn with soy to stop corn root worms — eventually the insects adapted and the system stopped working.

      The seed companies are working to have remittances that last for many years so quite worrying. The Bt crops reduce chemical insecticide by massive amounts. Truth is not hype. If they did;y work farmers wouldn’t buy them year after year

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