Monday, January 27, 2014

Syngenta Develops Biotech Bandaid To Combat Escalating Rootworm Problem

by Tami Canal


As rootworm infestations scourge the Midwest, farmers are becoming desperate. Syngenta AG, looking to capitalize on the crisis, is pushing for sales of a new corn trait China won't even approve. Agrisure Duracade will be available for the first time this year in "limited qualities" after the USDA cleared it for sale and cultivation late last year. Syngenta, the world's largest crop chemicals company, fiercely defends the commercialization noting that there is a strong demand for a solution to an escalating rootworm problem.

Over the last few years, rootworms appear to be developing more and more of a resistance to the very pesticide designed to combat them. Bt Corn, introduced by Monsanto in 2003, is a specific type of corn bioengineered with pesticides directly into the gene. When ingested, it causes the intestines to rupture. Scientists have sounded an alarms throughout the biotech industry when published findings concluded that rootworms have evolved an ability to survive the corn's formidable defenses.

Syngenta claims Agrisure Duracade contains a unique protein to control corn rootworm. It has a different mode of action to the company’s existing pesticides. When combined these traits provide unmatched insect control, "USDA data show a tenfold reduction in Western corn rootworm beetle emergence and superior performance against all comparable traits'.

The question is raised how long can science trump nature? Bt Corn was once hailed as a "farmer's dream", and has proven ineffective as Mother Nature finds a way. Crops are being ravaged all over the Midwest and farmers are looking for the next fix. However, the planting of Duracade threatens new disruptions and millions of dollars in loss for global grain traders if the strain becomes mixed with the mainstream supply trade. Contamination of corn is the very reason China has rejected a total of 600,000 tons of corn and corn products from the U.S, hurting prices and providing the most recent example of GMO use disrupting agriculture trade.

The FDA has assured the safety of Duracade after consultations in February stating that the trait "is as safe as conventional corn". Given the profit to be made, one can surmise that it won't be long before Duracade corn is in every grocery store in the country.

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