Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bt Resistance

I posted links on Facebook and Twitter to a story that National Public Radio picked up about researchers across the United States who wrote to Monsanto about resistance to certain Bt events. Bt stands for Bacillus thurengeinsis and was found by a Japanese scientist in 1901.

Our daughter Becky asked my opinion about the story so I thought I would explain it today. I basically said don't believe everything you read and hear. I say that because there is so much not known about genetically engineered or modified organisms you will see the extremes first. You will hear everything from it's the greatest thing since sliced bread to it is killing us. The truth is probably somewhere inbetween.

The first Plant Variety Protection Act was approved in 1970. Before the first genetically modified seed was released to the public, the Plant Variety Protection Act was also modified in 1994 to protect "scientific property," even though many finds were at tax funded Land Grant institutions. Many were not. The first thing farmers learned that they could no longer save seed because of the complexity of these laws. That threw up a big red flag but most drove right on past to gain the productive advantages of less insecticide for corn or less chemical for soybeans.

Genetically modified seed made it so much easier to farm that these seeds took over 90% of farmers purchases by recent years. Now, 18 years later, we find rootworms resistant to the Bt in early genetic events and "super weeds" that are very difficult to control. It's easy to say it failed, it's failing or we never should have gone that route.

Some farmers never saw the need for the more expensive seed and kept using what they had been, non genetically modified seed. Since 1994, very little of my seed has been genetically modified. I had to prove it to myself. GMO corn never made more profit in my trials but Liberty Link soybeans are a very easy way to control the resistant weeds around here.

I work with farmers who are 100% GMO and 100% non GMO. Most best management practices aren't any different on either type of farm.

So I guess it comes down to your belief on which way to go. Either way is feasible and either way can work or fail.

It's up to us to obtain the information we need to make that decision. Those scientists are asking companies to proceed cautiously. Those companies will have to make and live with their own decisions.


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