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Connections: Monsanto, Ethanol, and Nastier Rootworms

Dr. Newquist draws our attention to new research (Gassman et al., 2011) that finds Monsanto's Bt corn contributing to the spread of western corn rootworms. Dr. Newquist says Monsanto isn't wholly to blame for these evolving superbugs; he says we can also blame the push for ethanol:

Farmers were warned, also, not to plant Monsanto Bt corn in succeeding years so that pesty critters could not have so much opportunity to develop resistance to the insecticide implanted in it. But the high demand for corn for food and fuel made the prices high and farmers disregarded the advice to space out their plantings. The profit motive wins out and helps the bugs recreate themselves into monster insects.

Industrial farms are getting so huge that their operators find it necessary to go for the dollars to pay off their debts, not go for the prudent cropping plans that more carefully manage the perennial battle against pests [David Newquist, "Invasion of the Frankenstein Bug," Northern Valley Beacon, 2011.08.31].

The next interesting study for serious students of economics: do the economic gains from producing and using ethanol in South Dakota outweigh the economic losses of increased rootworm crop losses and increased pest control measures?

Worth noting: the research on the connection between Monsanto's Bt corn and the western corn rootworms fits with Mike Catangui's research connecting Monsanto's Bt corn with the spread of western bean cutworm.


  1. larry kurtz 2012.02.13

    Breaking from NPR: Monsanto found guilty of poisoning French farmer. Cascade of settlements pending.

  2. larry kurtz 2012.02.17

    Speaking of Brookings: Willie Nelson, in solidarity with 300,000 other plaintiffs, is suing Monsanto, a company engaged in ecocide in South Dakota.

    Dow Chemical is also being forced to clean up deadly dioxin in Michigan and the International Olympic Committee is under fire after Bhopal survivors try to expel Dow from sponsorship of the London Games.

  3. Troy Jones 2012.02.17

    Larry/Cory: This is an issue we agree on. I think we have too much genetically modified grain (esp corn and beans) in our food supply.

    I just wish it lead you to support the globally responsible response (not taking each issue individually but looking at a global issue) to endorse more oil (Keystone) and nuclear energy. :)

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