Monsanto Versus the Beetle

by Frank Gapinski

Monsanto versus the Corn Rootworm Beetle
in a dangerous game of tit for tat.

This story is almost a parable of two worlds, a battle between the natural and the man-made.

Like a boxing match, in the one corner we have Monsanto – a large company aided by big money and big investment, tinkering away in the science labs, discovering even more devious ways to develop the perfect pest resistant strain of GM corn that can be easily marketed and harvested to a massively large, over-subsidized monoculture industry.

The one aim is to develop the perfect foodstuff that can’t be attacked by pests or disease. Sounds good.

One the other side we have Nature, in the form of a humble beetle — the corn rootworm beetle — eying off all those wonderful acres of unblemished genetically modified corn, with their silk corn heads waving gently in the breeze signalling “C’mon over here little guy – come on over and eat me!”

The system is out of whack and out of balance. But pesky nature likes a balanced system.

So let the battle begin.

Recently Iowa State University researchers have discovered that Monsanto’s new improved genetically modified corn, that was previously thought to be resistant to all the nasty little bugs out there, has struck a problem.

It seems nature has not been idle. The western corn rootworm beetle has developed resistance to the insect-killing protein that is the natural insecticide found in Monsanto’s genetically modified corn.

Researchers have found that the new generation of beetles are now able to munch quite happily on Monsanto’s bug resistant corn.

The stakes have been raised now for Monsanto to go back to their labs and develop even more lethal GM corn to fight the army of rootworm beetles munching their way into their profits.

So how dangerous is the corn rootworm beetle?

Should millions of dollars in research be conducted developing more toxic chemicals to get rid of a greater threat to humanity?

It’s like the old cold war arms race between the US and the Soviets. Millions of dollars spent in a battle to suppress Nature? Is it even possible to suppress Nature?

As Geoff Lawton says in his permaculture videos, “We are Nature.” The war against nature is a battle we are fighting within ourselves.

The old definition perhaps rings true that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

So how do you fight a pest like the rootworm beetle?

Can it be fought in a monoculture system at all? Should new ways of crop diversity and predator habitats be encouraged?

Well, here’s University of Illinois horticulturalist Jeff Rugg with a small solution that unfortunately Monsanto may have slightly overlooked.