Are Pesticides Really the Answer to Pest Infestation in Corn Production?

GMO-resilient rootworms have led to increased sales in insecticides
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Chemical pesticides are making a big comeback in the corn industry. While genetically engineered crops once seemed like the solution to destructive rootworms, the larvae are finally making their way back to the top. With harmful rootworms now resistant to one type of genetically engineered corn, farmers are once again challenged to fend them off.

For many, the answer is increasing pesticide use. This is good news for companies that produce soil insecticides. Syngenta and AMVAC Chemical, for example, are reporting massive increases in sales.

In American Vanguard’s annual report for 2012, chairman and CEO Eric G. Wintemute wrote to shareholders: “I am proud to report that American Vanguard experienced record setting performance in 2012…we are exceeding our growth targets.” In 2010, the company’s net sales were $226,859. In 2012, they were $366,190.

However, increased pesticide use is not good news for farmers. The fact that pesticides are harmful to people’s health has become so well-known and accepted, it’s naturally ingrained in our daily routine. Think about every time you wash a fruit or vegetable before eating it. And now think about the farmers who come in direct contact with those pesticides every single day.

Dan Steiner, the crop consultant in northeastern Nebraska, recommends crop rotation as a healthier way to deal with the rootworms. By not growing corn every season and alternatively switching to, for instance, beans, wheat, or oats, the larvae will starve and the land will benefit.

But with corn so deeply ingrained in our agricultural system, telling farmers not to grow the crop may very well be advice that becomes noted, and ignored.   

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