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Monsanto's GM corn

(article, Culinate staff)

Monsanto and its genetically modified corn have been in the news again lately. Back in September, Hungary announced it had destroyed 1,000 acres of corn grown with GM seeds. (Hungary bans GM seeds throughout the country.) This month, an August news story about Monsanto's Bt corn — the corn is genetically modified with the aid of an insect-killing bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short — got new life. 

The GM corn, apparently, is no longer doing its job. In other words, the insects the corn's bacterial genes are supposed to kill off have evolved to become resistant to the genes, and are now happily munching on the corn again.

As Tom Philpott pointed out on Grist, the resistance problem — already documented with "superweeds" developing resistance to Monsanto's Roundup Ready plants and herbicides — was a known risk all along. Farmers who planted Bt corn were supposed to plant adjacent fields of non-Bt corn, to slow down the evolution of resistant insects. But Monsanto discouraged farmers from planting enough of these "refuge" fields, and the predictable evolutionary results have happened quickly.

Philpott concluded with a call for independent federal oversight of Monsanto, chewing out the Environmental Protection Agency for letting Monsanto simply monitor itself. And he noted a straightforward solution to the resistance problem:

bq. The Union of Concerned Scientists' Doug Gurian-Sherman has said it before and he said it again this week: Just stop growing so much damn corn. Simple biodiversity in farm fields, it turns out, trumps the latest patented geegaw conjured up by Monsanto. And it also makes for a healthier food supply.