Pests create pests

July 2014
Brinjal, or Aubergine, is an important crop in Bangladesh (see article)
CC photo by Joe Athialy on Flickr
In 1978, US entomologist and champion of biological pest control, Professor Robert Van den Bosch, looked at the data and pointed out that pesticides create pests.
 
Chemical pesticides are a disaster for all mankind except, of course, those who sell them.
 
Then, as now, truths inconvenient to industry addressed the evidence by shooting the messenger. Poor Prof. Van den Bosch.
 
The problem, already obvious four decades ago, was industrial agriculture. Since then, all the most harmful aspects of this chemical-based agri-infrastructure have been made worse by GM.

In a nutshell, huge-scale growing of identical plants year-after-year in the same field provides a banquet and breeding ground for all pests, including insects, weeds and diseases. Using simplistic chemical pest-zappers repeatedly in the same location is a recipe for evolution: if even a very few pests become resistant and survive the chemical holocaust, they will multiply up very quickly to plague-proportions.
 
Wiping out a whole strata of pests in the field also opens a door to infestation by other wild-life which never before got a chance to become a pest.
 
As Bosch said pesticides don't control pests, they create them.
 
GM-associated pesticides are the best pest-creator yet.
 
Unlike the one-shot annihilation caused by old-fashioned agri-chemicals, GM pesticides stick around in the system to manufacture new pests more efficiently.  
 
For example, the glyphosate herbicide used on crops genetically transformed to accumulate it without harm, ends up not only in the plants at high concentrations but in the soil, water and air. These are perfect conditions to generate glyphosate-resistant versions of every possible weed.  
 
Bt insecticide made by GM crops is present in the plants all the time, but not always at concentrations high enough to kill the pests. Insects exposed to low levels of a toxin will evolve to tolerate it very quickly indeed, and attempts to beat the problem by stacking more than one type of Bt toxin into the crop haven't worked as expected (see PEST AND PESTICIDE PROBLEMS - June 2014).
 
The strategy of attacking insects with a cocktail of ever-present GM Bt toxins is particularly good at creating pests if the insect is related to other useful insects, such as beetles. Suppressing useful insects simply allows the pests they were suppressing to thrive.
 
A stark illustration of Bosch's unpopular observation is underway in Bangladesh.
 
Bangladeshi farmers tend to cultivate one crop only, brinjal (aubergine/eggplant). An agreement between the Bangladeshi Agriculture Research Institute and Monsanto-Mahyco with financial assistance from USAID led to the development of nine local brinjal varieties with Bt genes to combat a major pest, the shoot-borer.
 
GM seeds were given to 20 “fortunate” farmers with a promise that they would not need pesticides and that their costs would be reduced.
 
Their GM brinjal crops have reportedly failed in their very first year because brinjal has about 37 different pests and the Bt toxin kills only one of them.
 
Agricultural GMOs are superbly designed to enhance pest-creating industrial agriculture. GM plants, shored up by patents and an iron industry grip on what scientists are allowed to find out about them, plus insurance against price and yield fluctuations in the form of US Government subsidies, make even the most pest-enhancing crop attractive to develop and grow.
 
Besides creating pests in the field, food from GM crops could be creating pests inside us.

“Agricultural GMOs do not exist independently of pesticides. We do not know enough. Three-quarters of (GM food crops) absorb pesticides, and the last quarter, like Bt corn, produce their own insecticide. There is already a toxicity due to pesticides within these GMOs, which is new in our diet. Before GMOs, we have never eaten such high levels of Roundup residues. Same for insecticides. Yes, GMOs are especially dangerous because they contain pesticides, but no only because of that. Our team also found toxic effects of GMOs without pesticides” (Séralini).
 
 
OUR COMMENT
 
The agri-chemical treadmill, now revolving faster with the addition of that extra GM gear, will never feed the world's rising population, but it will certainly feed an awful lot of the world's pests.
 
 
SOURCES  
  • Voracious worm evolves to eat biotech corn engineered to kill it, GM Watch 23.03.14
  • “They (GMOs) make animals seriously ill”, Sophie Devillers interviews Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini, La Libre Belgique, 31.03.14, www.gmoseralini.org
  • Yasir Wardad, Pest-resistant Bt brinjal comes under pest attack, Financial Express (Bangladesh), 7.04.14
  • Yanhui Lu, et al., 2010, Mirid Bug Outbreaks in Multiple Crops Correlated with Wide-Scale Adoption of Bt Cotton in China, Science 238 28.05.10

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