There is a news item from The Independent that says a certain kind of insect pest have been showing signs of developing resistance to GM crops modified to kill them. in a scientific study done by researchers from the University of Arizona found that an insect pest has recently developed a resistance to a built-in toxin gene that was genetically inserted into a genetically modified cotton crop. The purpose of the toxin gene in the GM cotton was to kill and control the said insect pest. This discovery is considered to be the first documented example of an insect pest evolving resistance to a particular GM crop in the wild.
The GM cotton contained a gene taken from the bacterium Bacilllus thuringiensis or Bt. This gene produces a kind of toxin that poisons and kills certain insect pests but is considered harmless to other animals. One of the insects that it is supposed to be protected from is the bollworm moth. The GM cotton was thought to be protected against pest problems that conventional pesticides fail to offer. But the recent study has shown otherwise as evidence of insects like the bollworm moth evolving Bt toxin resistant properties.
The bollworm moth is considered as one of the most destructive pests to threat cotton crops. From surveys conducted between 2003 and 2006 in the cotton fields of Arkansas and Mississippi, the resistant form of the moth’s caterpillar has been found in about a dozen fields in the said survey areas. According to Bruce Tabashnik who headed the University of Arizona research team, this is the first case ever documented of an insect evolving resistance to a GM crop in the wild. The bollworm insect may have developed resistance to the Bt cotton because of the huge area of land in the US planted with the said GM crop. This helped provide the stage for the pest to develop resistance through natural selection.
This news may just begin to unravel the other side of the impact that GM crops have not only on our lives but also on the environment. If GM defenders try to insist that GM crops are totally safe even in absence of more extensive testing, these recent article may just about bring them back to earth, so to say. Such instances prove that the development of newer GM crops may require a more extensive testing procedure before they are to be made available for commercial use. The supposed gains that such GM crops provide may prove to be short lived while the harmful consequences they bring may likely be suffered for a very long time.