Is Monsanto’s corn losing its "magic?"

Monsanto’s genetically modified corn may be losing its ability to kill rootworms. To be sure, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes the poison spliced into Monsanto Bt corn is not as effective as it once was.

According to Businessweek, rootworms in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska may be developing a tolerance for the insecticide in Monsanto Bt corn. This is hypothesis is based on documented cases of severe crop damage and reports from entomologists.


The EPA voiced the above-mentioned concerns in an internal report that was eventually posted on its website on Nov. 22, which, interestingly enough, was not published as a traditional press release.

Curiously, visitors to the EPA website have to specifically know what they are looking for if they wish to locate the report – which terms Monsanto’s method of tracking  pesticide resistance cases “inadequate.”


In July, a study from Iowa State University noted that certain rootworms may have developed a resistance to a deadly protein that originated from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), the natural insecticide engineered into Monsanto corn.

“Resistance is suspected in at least some portions of four states in which ‘unexpected damage’ reports originated,” the EPA said in the document.


Lee Quarles, a spokesman for Monsanto, insists there is no scientific proof that insects are building resistance to Monsanto’s Bt corn. Nevertheless, Monsanto said it is taking the EPA report seriously, and will be ramping up its efforts to help farmers deal with unexpected damage to their crops.


It should be noted that there has always been skepticism about whether Bt corn is safe for human consumption. Yet, Monsanto and the EPA have traditionally brushed aside such concerns and promised that only insects would be hurt by the corn. They claimed the Bt-toxin would be completely destroyed by the human digestive system, leaving absolutely no negative health effects for consumers.


However, a scientific study titled “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada,” was recently published in the academic journal Reproductive Toxicology. The study found that traces of the Bt toxin have been positively identified in the blood of pregnant women who ingested the corn.


Essentially, there is probably sufficient evidence to suggesr that the Bt toxin is harmful to humans. Meaning, the safety claims from Monsanto – and more importantly – the EPA, do not appear to be true, which has led to a legal and political war over GM foods in Europe and other parts of the world.


Although the battle against GM foods in the US doesn’t have as much support among the public as it does in Europe, one would think the EPA study and similar reports will eventually lead to more political action in the States.