Accused of Being a Monsanto Propagandist, I Am Asked to Explain Evolving Pesticide Resistance

GeunityLogoMonsantoReporting and commenting at the intersection of science and public policy garners one some amusing emails. Today, I received one with the subject line: GMO Failure. My email correspondent (whom I will spare naming) wrote:

Mr. Barton,

Since you are employed by the Monsanto propaganda department, how exactly are you going to spin this latest finding?

http://truthalliance.net/Archive/News/tabid/67/ID/10943/Pests-in-Illinois-destroy-fields-of-Monsanto-corn-proving-its-inefficacy.aspx

Sincerely,

Barton/Bailey? Same difference. Employed by the Monsanto propaganda department? Really?

For some people, employment suggests a transfer of funds. However, I just checked with the fundraising folks at the non-profit Reason Foundation that publishes this website and Reason magazine, and they tell me that Monsanto has never given us a dime.

In any case, I clicked on the link so helpfully provided to find a strategically redacted St. Louis Post-Dispatch article at the website Truth Alliance. The Truth Alliance appears to be dedicated to "bringing down the power structures of the New World Order (N.W.O.)"

But let's set that aside, and focus on the redactions and added commentary. The original August 28 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article notes that a couple of entomologists have apparently encountered an infestation of rootworms in fields of biotech corn created by Monsanto to resist those pests. This is, of course, bad news for farmers.

By citing the Truth Alliance blog version, my correspondent seems to be implying that pests evolving resistance to biotech crops is somehow an indictment of the whole enterprise. What he does not realize is that researchers have documented for decades the evolution of pests resistant to conventional and organic insecticides and herbicides. It's basic natural selection at work.

Consider, for example, the 1984 article, "History, evolution, and consequences of insecticide resistance," in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology. I will point out that first commercial biotech corn was planted in 1996, that is, 12 years after this article appeared. From the abstract:

The first inkling of what the future held with respect to pesticide resistance of arthropods may be found in 1897 writings concerning control difficulties with San Jose Scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus (Comstock)) and codling moth (Laspeyresia pomonella (L.)). Eighty-three years later, the ever-growing list of resistant species involved 14 orders and 83 families, and numbered 428 different insects and acarines, of which 61% are of agricultural importance and the remainder of medical/veterinary concern. The impact of this has been felt throughout the world, wherever insecticides are used, in terms of increased vector-borne disease, increased pesticide hazards in the environment, crop losses and poorer quality of products, increased production costs, pest resurgences and rise of secondary pests, and various socioeconomic repercussions.

So what to do to address the emerging pesticide resistance problem? The St.Louis Post-Dispatch article notes that the two entomologists...

...say that growers will have to switch to a product that has “multiple modes of action” against corn rootworm — such as Monsanto’s Genuity SmartStax (link added) line, which kills the worms with an additional protein.

In other words, continue to use scientific discoveries and human ingenuity to address the perpetual problem of crop destroying insects evolving pesticide resistance.

The Truth Alliance glosses the observation that farmers may have to switch pest resistant crop varieties as "farmers will have to switch to a less natural, more heavily genetically modified product." "Less natural" = evil?

In fact, researchers well before the advent of the biotech crop era had devised various strategies for slowing down the evolution of pesticide resistance in insects. For example, a 1989 article, "The Evolution of Insecticide Resistance: Have the Insects Won?," in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution noted:

A mixture of insecticides … can delay the evolution of resistance by several orders of magnitude compared with a rotation.  Mixtures work because insects that receive a lethal dose of one insecticide are simultaneously dosed with the other insecticide as well. Only extremely rare individual pests, which have resistance mechanisms against both chemicals, will survive. With a reservoir of untreated insects or immigration, random mating and recombination tend to break up the doubly resistant genotypes, leading to very slow evolution of resistance.

This is precisely the strategy that Monsanto plant breeders have used to create Genuity SmartStax crop varieties. The new Monsanto Genuity corn variety incorporates six different genes aimed at controlling insect pests plus two for herbicide resistance. In addition, the company is developing Geunity varieties that are drought resistant and use less fertilizer.

So that's how I "spin" it - I use scientific data, not lies and disinformation.

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  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

  • Ron Bailey||

    HC: I'm not arguing, just citing for illustrative purposes.

  • William of Purple||

    People still talk to Tony and shreek

  • RBS||

    and Tulpa.

  • Marshall Gill||

    But is it OK to ridicule and castigate them as imbeciles?

  • ||

    Absolutely.

  • ||

    Tulpa's not an idiot. He's more of a drooling imbecile, I think. The amount of drool makes all the difference.

  • Slammer||

    Drooling imbeciles are usually too imbecilic to threaten people with cages.

  • ||

    DUHHHH FOOD TRUCKS HURUUUUUUU GLIB DURRRRRRRRRRR LAW AND ORDER GUHHHHHHHH

  • tarran||

    You left out parking perpendicular to the flow of traffic. ;)

  • Almanian!||

    Mmmm hmm...OK. Tell me moar.

  • Slammer||

    RRRGGGHH... FRAUD!!!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Tulpa for Christs sake that is exactly the same argument you make every...

    Oh, sorry Warty, I see you're just imitating Tulpa. I had a hard time telling the difference there for a second.

  • ||

    Shreeeek and Tony are at least entertaining.

    Tulpa is simply a dick.

  • Ted S.||

    Three generations of drooling imbeciles is enough.

  • UnCivilServant||

    What? we have to wait that long?

  • tarran||

    Does abuse really count as arguing with someone?

  • Almanian!||

    Look here! I've paid for an argument?

    Oh, this is abuse!

    I'm terribly sorry....stupid git...

  • Invisible Finger||

    I'm a propagandist for Chris Monsanto myself.

  • RBS||

    Excellent work Mr. Barton!

  • some guy||

    So which of you no-talent assclowns is trolling Ron?

  • ||

    (sidelong glance at Hugh)

  • Hugh Akston||

    Don't kid yourself Epi. I'm not nearly as articulate as the emailer, who has clearly defeated genetic modification forever with his mighty brain-logic. I'm just not that clever.

  • Ted S.||

    Technically, if they got Ron to post about it, wouldn't that make them a talented assclown?

  • Jordan||

    NEEDZ MOAR CHEMTRAILS!!1

  • Damned Fool||

    With fava beans and a nice Chianti. Mmm, chemtrails...

  • Milano||

    Why not give up agriculture altogether? Or for that matter, food? We're just going to have to keep growing it and eating it.

  • ||

    +1 gambol

  • Hugh Akston||

    You don't expect religious zealots to buy into ideas like evolution, do you, Mr. Barton?

  • rts||

    I'm confused. Where are the poll results?

  • Almanian!||

    Survey says....

  • Andrew S.||

    Wow, Ron. Between the Monsanto propaganda cash and the Koch Brothers propaganda cash, you must be living pretty well.

  • RBS||

    Who do you think is funding all those child armies in Africa?

  • Loki||

    Don't forget the natgas propoganda cash.

  • AlexInCT||

    I oft struggle to understand how progressives that claim to be so much more enlightened and educated do not understand natural selection at work and how pesticides, antibiotics, or any kind of agent can result in a population with higher resistant for said agent as it culls others. It's as if they believe they are smarter, but in reality they are dumber than the people they ridicule for believing in something else.

  • Irish||

    I oft struggle to understand how progressives that claim to be so much more enlightened and educated do not understand natural selection at work and how pesticides, antibiotics, or any kind of agent can result in a population with higher resistant for said agent as it culls others.

    That word choice makes me think you understand.

  • ||

    They are enlightened in the exact same way born again Christians are enlightened: they believe.

  • Marshall Gill||

    I disagree. Even though Christians go whole hog, they still call it faith, believing what is not seen. These Malthusians do not acknowledge that they do not have proof.

  • ||

    That's only because evil corporations are covering it up, Marshall.

  • ||

    I'm not throwing Christians in the same pot with born again Christians. Christians are happy to say their beliefs are based on faith. Born again Christians, on the other hand, are just like progressives in that they won't concede that any other point of view has any validity at all. You've either seen the light or you're the walking dead. No proof necessary.

  • ||

    Yes, it's strange how progressives tend to turn into complete retards whenever it comes to subjects like healthcare, the environment, food, or economics.

    Wait, that covers a lot of territory, doesn't it?

  • Marshall Gill||

    to turn into complete retards

    If you rethink for a second you would realize this isn't what is happening.

  • Loki||

    Yes, it's strange how progressives tend to turn into are complete retards whenever it comes to subjects like healthcare, the environment, food, or economics.

    FTFY

  • JeremyR||

    Progressives want a health care system like in Canada or England, which somehow covers everyone and yet costs less money.

    I don't think they are the ones denying reality in that case...

  • ||

    If by "covers everyone" you mean everyone gets to take a number.

    Whether they actually get the health care is a separate question.

  • Irish||

    In any case, I clicked on the link so helpfully provided to find a strategically redacted St. Louis Post-Dispatch article at the website Truth Alliance. The Truth Alliance appears to be dedicated to "bringing down the power structures of the New World Order (N.W.O.)"

    I'm impressed you were able to so thoroughly drub an intellectual titan like this, Ron.

  • ||

    This is clearly an Illuminati/Freemason effort to control the world's food supply.

  • Andrew S.||

    In cooperation with the reverse vampires, in a fiendish effort to destroy the meal of dinner.

    We're through the looking glass here, people.

  • Almanian!||

    Haha! Like we're letting those piker Illuminati in on this....

    /mason

  • Finrod||

    Using the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. Don't forget those.

  • ||

    This perfectly illustrates the quality of the minds of the typical anti-GMO activist.
    Thanks Ronald.

  • Ron Bailey||

    I: He has other titans stand with him. See One Green Planet, and Eat, Drink, Better.

  • Almanian!||

    Top. Men.

  • Almanian!||

    What I like especially is that it's only Monsanto that's the target of the derp arguments and venom.

    DeKalb, Arizona Feed (where my aunt Joan worked), ADM (Supermarket to the World!™), Cargill, all the other firms are like, "What? How about sending a little hate our way, huh!? What are we? Chopped liver GMO rutabagas?"

    Yep - Monsanto = "alllllllll teh evul GMO companies in teh wurld"

  • ||

    Oh yeah, I think I remember seeing a trailer for some documentary or other calling Monsanto "the most evil corporation in the world". Hyperbole much?

  • Almanian!||

    Oh, no - they're TOTALLY the most evul.

    But the others haz a sad cause no one ever mentions them :(

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Monsanto is every bit as nasty as every other rent seeking corporation large enough to craft regulations that make it very difficult for small companies to get their foot in the proverbial door.

    But that should not cover up the fact that they are doing real science and creating revolutionary products that save lives and billions in treasure every season.

    It is possible to be evil yet make paradigm altering products.

  • Finrod||

    It is possible to be evil yet make paradigm altering products.

    Indeed. Just look at Microsoft.

  • RBS||

    Think of who these people are though. They all hate Wal-Mart but love Target. Screw that Food Lion down the street that's been in the same location for decades I'm going to the new Whole Foods that tore down half the neighborhood in order to build their shopping center.

  • Almanian!||

    Yes - the derp IS strong.

    NASCAR SUCKS! OMG F1 is coming to Austin!!11!

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    You didn't hear it from me, but the Koch bros and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant teamed up at last year's Bilderberg conference to introduce natural selection into rootworm populations the world over. Sucks, but it's looking good for those of us who were prescient enough to invest in rootworm futures.

    Al Gore was going to crash the meeting and save the world from GMO plagues, but for some reason he wound up spending the whole day with a Chantilly masseuse instead.

  • Almanian!||

    We r in ur corn lookin at ur sugarz

  • Paul.||

    Truth Alliance. The Truth Alliance appears to be dedicated to "bringing down the power structures of the New World Order (N.W.O.)"

    To be fair, isn't that what Reason and its 22 or so commenters are trying to do?

  • ||

    I won't speak for the other 21 commenters, but I don't give a rat's ass about the new world order.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    I'm mostly here to see whether Welch is going for S1 or S2+ Riker on any given week.

  • Long Range Boredom||

    I didn't watch the WCW because it was terrible.

  • Sean Higgins||

    From the Truth Alliance's "mission statement" -- "This is the Truth; the facts surrounding this reality can’t be debated, twisted and whitewashed into anything other than what it is. The willful destruction of your countries national sovereignty by both foreign and domestic enemies entrenched into the highest reaches of power. Only by looking at the economical, political, and foreign policy in this light will the magnitude and pace of current events begin to make sense. Our future and the future of our offspring are being determined by the enormously wealthy and obstinate desires of the global elite, solely for the purposes of centralization of power and control."

    Hmm, didn't another Reason scribe just write a book about this kjnd of thinking...?

  • Sean Higgins||

    Oh, and check out the 9/11 truth section in their links page:http://truthalliance.net/Links.aspx

  • mad libertarian guy||

    the facts surrounding this reality can’t be debated, twisted[,] and whitewashed into anything other than what it is.[:] The willful destruction of your countries national sovereignty by both foreign and domestic enemies entrenched into the highest reaches of power.

    Apparently writing a grammatically coherent thought is also part of the new world order that the author is trying to circumvent.

  • ||

    Grammar is a mind control device, invented by the Illuminati. I learned that for Jared Loughner, Tea Party affectionado.

  • Rick Perry||

    The hell with the rootworms. What are you going to do about the Texas Carzy Ants?

    http://www.utexas.edu/news/201.....hers-find/

  • ||

    Have them choreograph for the Marching Owl Band

  • G-dub||

    In other news, viruses evolve resistance to vaccines, proof that medical science as a whole is an exercise in futility and we should all just die of polio already instead of messing with nature.

  • powerdoggames||

    Excellent work Mr. Barton!

    More free online games at www.powerdoggames.com

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