Moth of the African maize stalkborer (Busseola fusca).

Moth of the African maize stalkborer (Busseola fusca).

I have discussed the philosophy of known-knowns, known-unknowns, and unknown-unknowns. With artificially genetically engineered crops, those with genetic modifications that could NEVER happen naturally, those who make the seed and promote their use tell us that they know all the known-knowns and all is well. They do not even acknowledge known-unknowns or, horrors, unknown-unknowns. Yet, it is especially the latter that will destroy our food supply in the long run rather than save it.

The latest case in point is that a major corn pest has developed resistance to BT corn, corn genetically engineered to contain a foreign gene that produces the BT toxin. BT, by the way, is a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) that has been used by organic farmers for years with great success. It is sprayed on and used only as necessary and has never led to resistant pests. With GMO corn, the damn gene is part of the plant and always there. One of the AG 101 course things you learn is that anything in excess is bad. I do not think they have taught this in AG 101 in the US for over 30 years. More is better, of course. More pesticides, more herbicides!!!!! Monsanto is getting rich and farmers are going broke affording all the chemicals.

But, I digress. What has happened in South Africa is a major pest,  the moth Busseola fusca, has developed an unusual defense

Stemborer damage to maize cob

Stalkborer damage to maize cob

mechanism against Bt toxin in GMO corn. Normally, the moth larvae munches a bite of the GMO corn, its stomach explodes. But now, it doesn’t bother them at all. Meaning that the farmer pays more for the seed and still has to spray pesticides to control the pest that the seed manufacturer promised would not bother his plants. Way to go, agribusiness. Make more money and the farmer more dependent on you. All at his expense.

This scenario has already occurred with other GMO crops and will continue to happen over and over until there is no biodiversity left at all. Biodiversity is also one of the major ways that pest and plant disease is limited across regions growing the same crop (same crop all with different characteristics, not all of which will ever be wiped out all at once due to the differing varieties). With everyone planting the same variety, complete disaster can wipe out an entire country’s crop of a given thing. It happened with the boll weevil in cotton in the South and with corn in the midwest years ago. GMOs will never stop this from occurring and can certainly make it much more likely. Only true biodiversity will work. GMOs are not biodiversity.

Monsanto telling us GMOs are safeWhat make the South Africa case so important is that, normally, resistance like this is a recessive trait, in that it does not pass to offspring, yet these moths carry it as dominant and it will pass to offspring. This is also why the emergence of so many pests happened so fast, over just a few years where the BT corn is worthless.

So, what are they doing? Yep, you guessed it, producing more GMO corn with two toxins rather than one. Brilliant. How long will it take the moth to adapt to that? This is a vicious circle and it will not work. Go back to conventional corn and trash the GMOs. And we haven’t even mentioned what corn modified this way does to human health. Another ignored known-unknown.

One other interesting food for thought. South Africa and the United States are among the very few developed countries that do not ban or at least require labeling for foods with GMOs. Even many so-called third-world countries ban them, although many are being taken advantage of by countries like the US in the name of aid. The end result will be loss of indigenous farming systems and complete dependence on seed companies and foreign governments – it is the new colonialism.


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