Breeding Bt crops breeds healthy pests

May 2022

In the first decade of 'Bt' insecticidal GM maize growing, it was noted that aphids unexpectedly thrived on them. Aphids are sap-sucking insects which can reproduce prodigiously under the right conditions, but don't usually cause economic damage to maize crops. It was suggested that these overwhelmingly 'right conditions' in the Bt maize plants might be their slight, but significantly, increased levels of amino acids*, dismissed by regulators as of 'no biological significance'.

Weak skinned Bt plants with Bt unfriendly viruses

May 2022

'Bt' insecticide-generating GM crops are sold as a major weapon in the battle against key species of pest without the need for chemical applications.

The initial benefits of Bt are eroded within a few years, not only by the evolution of resistance in the target pests, but by Bt-resistant non-target pests which are happy to fill the vacant seat at the monoculture banquet.

Early on, we had reports of out-of-control mealy bugs on Bt crops in India and Pakistan [1] and mirid bugs in China [2]. These are assumed to be the result of reduced spraying with broad-spectrum insecticides thanks to Bt.

However, there are some much more complicated environmental interactions going on. For example, mirid bugs were previously minor pests on cotton until the Bt GM version came along.

Super toxic Bt cowpeas

May 2022

In 1990, Monsanto scientists published their latest discovery about the new 'Bt' insecticides generated by GM crops which were soon to become every farmers 'must-have'.

Their exciting finding, with an "immediate commercial implication" was that the insecticidal power of Bt could be increased many fold if its degradation was prevented by the plant itself. Many plants produce substances which prevent the breakdown of proteins, such as the Bt toxin, possibly to keep herbivores at bay by interfering with their digestion. The authors suggested this would confer "significant and long-term implications and benefits" on Monsanto's "genetically improved" Bt-generating plants.

Safety assessment of the new Bt crops was based on two strands of evidence.

Self spreading viruses

April 2022

Is there any such thing as a non-self-spreading virus? Or, to re-phrase the question using some of the alternative, interchangeable, technical terms which pop up: is there any such thing as a non-transmissible, non-self-disseminating, non-contagious, non-horizontally-transferable virus?

The answer is no. Viruses only exist by hijacking living cells and forcing them to churn out viral particles. Viruses wouldn't exist if they weren't self-spreading, transmissible, self-disseminating, contagious, horizontally transferable (and uncontrollable).

So, what are we talking about?

COVID theories - part 3

April 2022

COVID theories part III - The origin of Covid-19 better explained

A year on from the start of the pandemic there was still, by all accounts, a near-consensus view among scientists that the causative agent of Covid-19 lay in natural animals, but some free-thinkers were beginning to explore the unfashionable alternative: the laboratory-escape hypothesis.

Further analysis of the Covid-19 virus structure revealed "multiple peculiar characteristics" (Segret et al.). For example:
  • The Covid-19 virus is poorly adapted for infecting bats or pangolins. Yet it emerged, apparently without any (natural) intermediate evolution, remarkably well adapted for infecting humans.

COVID theories - part 2

April 2022

Part II - Some key players in the Covid-19 drama

President of Ecohealth Alliance, Dr Peter Daszak, who worked closely with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for 15 years, declared long ago that "Most pandemics ... originate in animals". Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak he has claimed any suggestions that the virus might have come from a lab are "preposterous", "baseless", "crackpot", "conspiracy theories" and "pure baloney" because such "lab accidents are extremely rare", and "have never led to large scale outbreaks".

COVID theories - part 1

April 2022

Part I - The source of Covid-19: was it animals or scientists?

Ever since the first reports of a coronavirus outbreak in December 2019 in the Chinese megacity of Wuhan, the origins of Covid-19 have been steeped in controversy. Did the virus just pop out of nature by chance? Or, was it a human creation now running amok? The answer is vital to ensure controls are put in place to reduce the risk of this sad, global history repeating itself.