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EPA Pushes For Cap On GMO Corn Plantings To Defeat Corn Rootworm Pesticide Resistance

by Marc Davis

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In an effort to stop the insatiable appetite of the corn rootworm for genetically engineered corn, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed limits on plantings of the once-pest-resistant crop.

The GMO corn in question, bred to produce a protein fatal to the corn rootworm, is no longer effective against the pest, which has evolved to resist the lethal substance, and thus poses a significant threat to the crop. To address this, the EPA proposes restrictions to sowing corn in the same field year after year.

The limits proposed by the EPA, released in January, are designed to stop the ever-evolving resistance of corn rootworms to the Bt pesticides they consume through corn The toxin is engineered into the corn and reduces the need for conventional pesticides.

An estimated 80 percent of U.S. corn fields were planted with GMO corn in 2014, according to the USDA and corn rootworm damage costs as much as $2 billion annually. Crops are especially at risk in an area called the corn rootworm "red zone," encompassing parts of Illinois, western Indiana, Iowa, southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and southwestern Wisconsin.

The stricter, newly-proposed planting limitations are necessary, in part, said the EPA, because the biotech industry has not acted sufficiently to stop the proliferation of the rootworm.

If EPA limits are imposed on GMO corn plantings, biotech seed manufacturers such as Monsanto Co., Du Pont Co., and Dow Chemical, Co., face substantial revenue losses.

The EPA has solicited public comments from all interested parties including corn growers, NGOs, industry and academia, on its proposals to be submitted to the agency no later than March 16.

EPA's proposals may be seen in their entirety at

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