Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction frequently explore the impact of our tinkering with our world, resulting in devastation and illuminating the folly of men. The currently popular Rise of the Planet of the Apes is just one example.
In our real world, people fear resistant super bacteria – and many have reduced or eliminated the use of triclosan containing antibacterial soaps because they promote such resistant super bacteria and, for household uses, are no more effective than conventional soaps.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are another potential problem. Generally speaking, a genetically modified organism is an organism which has genetic material added to its genome to achieve certain traist or characteristics. I personally try to avoid GMO products. In my garden, I do not buy or plant any GMO seeds. When grocery shopping, I try to steer clear of GMO products.
I do understand that there are arguments to support the use of GMO. But, I think we need to proceed with much more caution. The recent news report that some GMO corn crops are being eaten by a resistant rootworm is a bit, well, troubling.
An Iowa State University researcher’s paper indicates that western corn rootworms in at least four northeast Iowa corn fields have developed a resistance to the natural pesticide in Monsanto’s GMO corn – the a pest that the GMO corn is supposed to thwart.
Monsanto’s GMO corn seed is herbicide-resistant, which means that farmers can blanket their fields in herbicide and kill everything but their food crop plants. Monsanto also developed the GMO corn seed with a gene that produces a crystalline protein called Cry3Bb1 (the natural pesticide referenced previously), which kills the rootworm but is otherwise allegedly harmless. Or so we like to think.
But now, an Iowa researcher has found fields with rootworms resistant. The fear is that the resistance will spread. Monsanto’s GMO corn seed with the gene producing the crystalline protein was so successful that it’s estimated that roughly a third of U.S. corn now carries the gene. Meaning that the rise of the resistant super rootworm may be coming, causing problems for those corn crops.
More problemmatic is that if one bug can develop resistance then it seems likely that others will too (just like the resistant bacteria). And we will continue to seek to tinker with Mother Nature to develop that super crop, resulting in more and more super bugs.
But you can’t fool Mother Nature for long.