No Bt soya for US farmers

July 2018

After spending more than a decade testing the performance of its GM 'Intacta 2 Xtend' soya in preparation for US commercialisation in 2021, Monsanto has pulled the plug.

One university agri-scientist from a southern state where Intacta 2 Xtend was supposed to be rolled out said his area "would benefit from a Bt soybean product" and that, as chemical insecticides are becoming steadily less effective in the field, "the demand for Bt soybean ... would be extremely high". Intacta 2 Xtend contains three Bt genes, yet the reason Monsanto cites for abandoning the US arm of the project is low grower demand. This makes it sound as if American farmers have fallen out of love with GM soya even if the agri-scientists haven't. However, entomologists suspect the real reason for the move is that, due to the existing level of pest resistance to Bt, the technology is simply failing before it even hits the fields.

As an indication of how limited the Bt gene technology is, Intacta 2 Xtend is little more than a stack of variants of previously deployed Bt toxins. Existing resistance in key pests is already established and cross-resistance between old and new toxins is highly likely. In fact, 'megapests' of hybrid cotton bollworm and corn earworm are already emerging: a key related pest, soya podworm, may well also integrate [1].

The biotech industry has been less careful about introducing Bt soya to South American countries. First generation 'Intacta RR2 PRO' soya with a single Bt gene and resistance to Roundup herbicide was commercialised there in 2013. Second generation Intacta 2 Xtend with added dicamba herbicide resistance besides the extra Bt genes is still planned for a South American launch in 2021.

Bt soya is, therefore, fast becoming part of Argentina's 'Modelo Sojero'.

A study of 'GM Soybean Cultivation in Argentina' published last year concluded that "the environmental implications of agricultural biotechnology appear alarming and the long-term sustainability of GM crops highly questionable".

The reason for this conclusion is that despite the current success of the Modelo Sojero in terms of production and profit records, there are numerous weak links which could eliminate these in a very short time frame. For example, dependence on unstable international markets, fluctuating export taxes, the vagueries of corporate control of seed and chemicals, the threat of biotech industry patents (currently avoided in Argentina which makes soya cultivation cheaper than elsewhere) are all looming threats to profitability. On the land, decimation of crop rotations, forest, labour and farming skills, and of local communities, plus increased dependence on agri-chemicals don't bode well for Argentina's future.

Last but not least, there are increasing health concerns stemming from large-scale glyphosate applications on GM crops [3], now including Intacta RR2 PRO [4]. Such adverse effects can only be made worse by the impending widespread exposure to multiple Bt toxins and dicamba in Intacta 2 Xtend dust [5].


The addition of Intacta RR2 PRO and Intacta 2 Xtend with their short useful life is a future vulnerability Argentina could do without.

As the study's authors emphasised "Promoting sustainable agricultural growth has become not only desirable but necessary". ASK FOR IT, because Argentina's problems won't be limited to South America.


[1] MEGA-PEST MOTHS - June 2018
[5] DICAMBA AND DUST - October 2017

NOTE. El Modelo Sojero in Argentina consists of intensive, large-scale, mechanized production, and very efficient management of farming operations based on new forms of association between farmers known as "sowing pools", that lease services to specialized firms for the main farming operations. [2]

NOTE. "Sustainability" in agricultural systems incorporates concepts of both resilience (the capacity of systems to buffer shocks and stresses) and persistence (the capacity of systems to continue over long periods), and addresses many wider economic, social and environmental outcomes.

  • Pascale Phélinas and Johanna Choumert, 2017, Is GM soybean Cultivation n Argentina Sustainable? World Development 99 
  • Emily Unglesbee, Bt Beans on Hold, DTN The Progressive Farmer, 9.05.18

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