One of the main reasons to genetically engineer crops was to develop plants that are resistant to insects, by having pesticide engineered into the plants themselves. But new research shows that insects love GM crops! The first problem is that pests become resistant to the pesticide, meaning they won't be killed when the same pesticide is sprayed on non-GM plants. Scientists say that the insects' resistance develops more quickly than ever because they are constantly exposed to the toxin, rather than just trying to survive an occasional spraying. But now researchers have discovered that insects actually use the poison as a food, so that rather than controlling pests, the GM crops actually help them thrive.
Scientists fed pesticide-resistant larvae of the diamondback moth, a troublesome pest on southern U.S. farms, on normal cabbage leaves, as well as leaves that had been treated with Bt toxin. The larvae eating the treated leaves grew much faster and bigger, with a 56% higher growth rate. They found the larvae "are able to digest and utilize" the toxin and may be using it as a "supplementary food," say the researchers.
Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, says, "This is just another example of the unexpected harmful effects of GM crops. If Friends of the Earth had come up with the suggestion that crops engineered to kill pests could make them bigger and healthier instead, we would have been laughed out of court."
GM Foods is one of the many important topics covered by science reporter Linda Howe on Dreamland every week.
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