Corn farmers turn to insecticides again

A corn field in Iowa shows rootworm damage in 2012.

In Sac Country, Iowa, corn stands a foot high at Darwin Bettin’s farm on a breezy summer day. But one recent morning after a storm, he found a big surprise.

"I could see corn laying down in my field and none of my neighbors' fields," Bettin says. "I told my wife if I didn't know better, that looks like rootworm damage."

The rootworm he’s talking about was the scourge of the cornfield for years. The insect’s larvae feed on the roots of the corn, knocking the plants over row by row. Then ten years ago, Monsanto introduced what’s called Bt corn, which is genetically engineered to emit a toxin that kills the larvae.

“And I didn't need insecticide," Bettin says. "I could just use that. And so we used that and got along good.”

Until they didn’t. In time, the rootworms the toxin didn’t kill emerged in force, slashing Bettin’s yield in half. This year the farmer applied a trusted soil insecticide. And that’s what concerns the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA signed off on Bt corn in the first place.

“One of the points in our decision to register the Bt toxins was that would eliminate the need to use soil-applied corn rootworm insecticides," says Steven Bradbury, who directs the office of pesticide programs at the EPA.

Surveys show that, with their profits at stake, as many as half of Midwestern farmers are still using Bt corn. But they’re applying insecticide, too. And that adds up.

Aaron Locker, a marketing director for the farm products manufacturer FMC, says sales and profits are on the rise, "due in part to resistance to corn rootworm."

And the gains are industry-wide. Luke Samuel, Monsanto’s corn insect traits manager, says rootworms have been a challenge in the past and they’ll be a challenge in the future.

“Resistance is not a new concept in agriculture," he says.

The EPA says Monsanto is moving in the right direction. The company introduced seed with a new toxin to confound the rootworm larvae, and they’re encouraging farmers to plant corn every other year to control the infestations. With corn prices high, that’s a hard sell.

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Falsehood # 16...global demand for food and products is forcing big companies to cut corners and produce things that may not be safe for human consumption.

You have no evidence, only speculation.

The other way you could look at it is due to demand, companies can invest in research & development, infrastructure, etc. High demand means their products are valuable. Cutting corners would be an act of desperation that would allow a company to under-cut their competition on price. With a strong market, there is less to gain from breaking the law and way more to risk - they would be risking their place in a profitable market.

I'm glad you're keeping score, because I'm not. We don't agree on many issues and that's fine. I will keep voicing my opinion and I'm sure you will continue to voice yours. That's the beauty of living in a country that allows free and open discourse.

You say you are looking for evidence. It is everywhere, but you must believe asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are just naturally occuring ailments that are not influenced by environmental factors.

I will repeat a thought I expressed earlier, vision with blinders on is not real vision. It is incomplete, and excludes many things that are otherwise obvious.

I appreciate the opportunity to have this dialogue. It is a barometer of divergent beliefs and convictions. All along I have expressed an open-minded approach to the subjects that we have been discussing. You have labeled me a liberal and a voice of untruths and fear. Labels are one way of trying to negate opposing views.

Peace be with you.

More economics...
Cost per megawatt hour..
Solar... $156.9
Coal.. $99.6
Nat. Gas $68.6

The market will decide where our power comes from. Until prices of fossil fuels change, renewable energy will not be cost- effective. Forcing companies to switch through government intervention will only make matters worse. If it can only work with government support, its doomed to fail.

Falsehood # 17 electric cars are viable today if massed produced.

41, 000 chevy volts have been produced. I would consider this mass production. Fact is mass production doesnt mean mass demand. People dont want limited range, they dont want to deal with long charge times, finding charging stations. You hint that mass production will reduce prices and increase demand... do you think they can make the volt any cheaper? Maybe 1 - 2% which would still price them two times more than a similar gas powered car. I can't even imagine cost of ownership is less. How long before I have to replace the batteries?

Then why has tax payer money been used to subsidize oil, caol, gas and nuclear for decades? If renewable energy was given the same freebies, it would be much more competitively priced. You're comments are contradictory and prove my point about your blinder vision. You do look at things the way the military/industrial complex would like all of us to see things.

You really believe the energy market and the US energy policy is fair and open, and not influenced by big energy?

Can I ask you a personal question? How old are you?

I am 30 years old.

You have opinions, that is good. You have every right to express them. Some things you say however are not opinions, they are lies and misinformation. People read stuff you write and take it as gospel. My wife the other day saw on facebook someone posted "monsanto is killing honey bees." Immediately someone commented " oh my god that is terrible, why would they do that?" You see? Posting unchecked facts is dangerous, and that is why I am busting your chops. Our ideas are different, I can live with that. I am open to other ideas but your opinions sure as hell arent going to sway me. What I hope you take away from this is that you need to be careful what "facts" you post in the future. If you dont trust companies, you may say so. But perpetuating rumors is dangerous.

Back to energy. If it were up to me, there would be no subsidies for anyone. Not oil, not gas, not nuclear, not renewable. That would be fair for everyone, right?

Great, we agree on that. See there is some common ground. I take issue with your repeated statements that I am spreading rumors and falsehoods. I can point out many contradictions in your verbal diarrhea, like when you said that any energy source that requires government subsidies is doomed to fail, this is a blatant contradiction.

And your contention that electric cars are not viable with evidence from the Chevy Volt. Please get the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car". General Motors was manufacturing an affordable all electric car (the EV1) in the 1990's, and could have continued to produce them. The reasons why they stopped production are still unclear, but the preponderence of evidence is they realized they would not make as much money on maintenance, and of course no oil or gas would be required to power them. Was there a conspiracy to destroy those vehicles. You can form your own opinion, but I suspect you will say I'm just imagining any link between big oil and the US auto industry.

As far as bees dying because of pesticides, there is scientific proof for that assertion. You being an expert on farming, should know the importance of a healthy bee population for pollination. I hope you realize that bees play a huge role in crop production. I know you're young, but these are simple concepts.

I'm signing off now and I don't think I will be responding to anymore of your posts. One of the definitions of insanity as you may know is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Energy source supported by government...what happens when the government can no longer afford to pay? What happens when the government goes bankrupt? What happens when different polititions get elected and priorities shift? Any of these scenarios would end the industry. Just look at solar. United solar ovonic and no less than 40 other companies went bankrupt or closed in the last 18 months. You know what happened 24 - 36 months ago, governments around the world decided they could no longer afford to subsidize solar projects. True I shouldn't have said doomed to fail. How about have a very high probability of failure?

If you believe I have made any other contridictions, omissions, or errors, please let me know. I would appreciate the chance to defend myself.

Okay bees. Yes there was in fact a peer reviewed, published study linking the decline of bees to one new type of insecticide, the neonicitinoids. Monsanto does not market any to my knowledge. There have also been studies linking bee losses to drought, a new mite parasite, imbreeding, even cell phone signals. These are all theories as to what is causing bee deaths. And yes, bees are critical to many crops, but so you know, not all crops. Corn, wheat, soybeans, peas, and sunflowers for example do not need bees to pollinate.

As far as the insanity thing, the only item I have intentionally repeated has been my asking of you to stop spreading misinformation. I apologize, but I think this has been the first time you acknowledged me.

I'm curious, do you know what residues are on your organic produce? Apparently you think organic will solve all of our food problems, but you will still be ingesting pesticides. Are you willing to grow your own food? How far will you go? The only way to know for sure would be subsistence farming.


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