In an attempt to fight pest resistance in corn crops in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recommending limits on the amount of corn has the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) characteristic that farmers are currently permitted to plant.
The precise reason for the suggested limits is to try and trim down the effects of the corn rootworm. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Michael Gray, an entomologist from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign said corn rootworm can cost farmers an amount between $1 and $2 billion in losses per year.
If the EPA’s suggestion is implemented, farmers would have to adhere to better insect management practices like crop rotations or sowing in a “refuge area” that has corn without the Bt characteristic in areas that are vulnerable to rootworms.
The EPA’s worry is that if the rootworm grows to be even more resistant, American farmers will be compelled to use more artificial products which could pose a hazard to the environment.
The EPA is recommending about 35% of fields to be planted with a different crop after two successive years of corn.
Many big seed organizations have hybrids which have the Bt trait. It is poisonous to the pests but harmless to humans. They also have insect management protocols on their official websites.
“To me, it should be more an individual decision and not the government telling us what to do,” The Wall Street Journal quoted an anonymous farmer from Nebraska as saying.
Yet the new rules indicate that instead of being the silver bullet once thought, genetically modified crops may just speed up evolution and create superbugs that are incredibly resistant to all forms of control.
The matter is presently under a public comment phase until March 16. The EPA will confirm new suggestions afterwards.