BY SHICANA ALLEN
GMO soy, corn, and cotton crops in Brazil, along with non-GMO crops such as tomatoes, beans, and sorghum, are being devoured by voracious caterpillars that were not a problem prior to the use of genetically modified seeds. Brazilian farmers are facing huge losses (now totaling ten billion REAL’s, the national currency) as a plague of the caterpillar pests—called Helicoverpa armigera or the “corn ear worm”— are devastating fields.The insect’s natural predator, another variety of caterpillar with cannibalistic tendencies called Spodoptera, was intentionally eliminated as a result of the cultivation of transgenic maize engineered with Bt toxin, designed to kill off the primary species. Unfortunately, 90% of the secondary caterpillar species proved immune to the pesticide, allowing it to multiply unchecked and to eat to its heart’s content in the absence of natural enemies.
At a recent conference specifically dedicated to Helicoverpa armigera, conducted by Brazil’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, scientists, farmers, students, and government officials gathered to discuss the problem and propose control measures. Declaring the infestation a “phytosanitary emergency to cotton and soybean crops,” a working group was formed to sketch out a disaster plan in an effort to reverse the caterpillar’s impact. A method of attacking its reproductive cycle is being considered…and so mankind’s tampering with nature continues, no doubt with even more unpredictable consequences on the horizon.
Shicana Allen has been a health, environmental, and food safety advocate, writer, and public speaker for over 20 years.