I had a follower recently express a concern about GMOs, and Monsanto in particular. She was concerned that Monsanto’s marketing and strategy would eventually result in absolutely no non-GMO seeds. In other words, all of our plants would eventually be GMOs.
But that isn’t the case and, in fact, it’s bad business for Monsanto and other GMO companies.
B.t. crops are bad for insects. Why? Because the protein is incompatible with their digestive system and it will kill them (but don’t worry, humans are perfectly capable of digesting proteins safely…as I assume you would know that). However, as with all modern technology, we are concerned with resistance. Similar to bacteria resistance to antibiotics, we don’t want insects to suddenly become immune to B.t. crops. If this happened, the B.t. technologies would become obsolete immediately.
Therefore, under regulation by the EPA, farmers must implement an Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plan. The concepts works when you plant non-GMO seeds of the same crop near GMO crops. The non-GMO crop is referred to as a “refuge.” The purpose, of course, it to keep a population of pests that are not exposed to the B.t. technology and cannot develop some type of immunity to it. These pests will mate with the pests that have been exposed to B.t. technologies and helps reduce the risk of having insects immune to the protein.
To protect their own technology, it is in Monsanto’s best interest to keep conventional seeds around. After investing all the time, money, and research into developing B.t. technologies, it won’t be worth much if the pests become immune to it.
The way in which a farmer plants the refuge is regulated by the EPA, although there are several options. These range from strips in the field to an adjacent field to border rows, etc. Obviously, the requirements or decision to go with one way or the other will depend on how a farmer’s fields are placed.
The amount of refuge required depends on the location of the farm and also the type of seed used. This IRM map shows the differences based on location: