During the past decade, South Dakota State University entomologist Mike Cantangui did research that showed Monsanto's genetically engineered corn may contribute to the spread of cutworms. Three years ago, Monsanto board member and SDSU president David Chicoine saw to it that Dr. Cantangui was fired from SDSU.
What's happened in the last three years? Corn rootworms and pesticide sales have exploded:
In parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, though, farmers are running into increasing problems with corn rootworms.
"You never really know for sure, until that big rain event with the strong wind, and then the next morning the phone starts ringing [and people ask]: 'What's going on out there?' " says Steiner.
Entire hillsides of corn, with no support from their eaten-away roots, may be blown flat.
Monsanto has downplayed such reports, blaming extraordinary circumstances. But in a half-dozen universities around the Midwest, scientists are now trying to figure out whether, in fact, the Bt genes have lost their power [Dan Charles, "As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges in Corn Belt," NPR: The Salt, 2013.07.09].
Charles says some pesticide makers report sales of their chemicals are up 50 to 100 percent in the last couple years.
Charles makes a point similar to one Dr. Newquist highlighted a couple years ago: the push for ethanol is driving more corn planting and supplanting the sensible crop rotation that could keep Frankenbugs from taking root.
Perhaps we can all find out a cheaper way to fight rootworms by attending the Organic Row Crops open house at MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year Charlie Johnson's place on July 25. How's your corn looking, Charlie?