Mark Whalon, a Michigan State University entomology professor, says that farmers and those marketing genetically modified seeds shouldnt become complacent because so far there has been no documented evidence that insects have developed resistance to crops engineered to repel them.
Instead, in a presentation at the 222nd National Conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Wednesday, Aug. 29, he said precautions should be taken to explore ways to combat resistance to genetically modified organism (GMO) crops before the bugs develop it.
Wed like to think that science could manage resistance, but in truth, historically weve been pretty ineffective, Whalon said. I think whats going on in the big GMO crops corn and cotton is that growers havent yet gotten a high enough percentage of GMO plants in the field such that sufficient selection pressure has been mounted against the pests for resistance to develop.
Whalons ACS presentation Insect resistance to GMOs: What have we learned? explores speculation on whether pests will evolve to defend themselves from crops that produce defenses against them. Insects and mites already have proven deft at developing resistance to applied insecticides, with 540 arthropods resistant to more than 310 insecticides and miticides.
These speculations and deductive arguments have resulted in the first-ever requirement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for resistance management plans as a part of the GMO registration process
Whalon is a proponent of working now to head off resistance in the field by learning to live with some of the insects. He argues that a certain number of crop-eating pests need to be treasured protected for the susceptibility genes they pass on to the next generation.