One of the most prevalent traits of genetically modified plants is their ability to resist insects that would normally consume and destroy the plant. One recent addition to the family of gmo plants created to protect itself from insects is a hybrid plant created by DuPont Pioneer and is known as Optimum Leptra. The website states that the modification is to the corn plant and is designed to reduce the ear feeding of lepidopteran pests which delivers cleaner ears with less kernel damage and that it eliminates the major risk of development of molds and mycotoxins in harvested grain (“Optimum Leptra Hybrids”).
An article by Clarin Rural, covering news in the Latin American regions, talked about how the corn will soon be introduced in Argentina after having the Ministry of Agro Industry approve the marketing of the plant (“Resistant corn comes with four transgenic events”). The article gives more details on the function of the modifications, stating that two of the events protect against stem borer and isoca Tang, a double event for protection against fall armyworm and glufosinate ammonium with a room for glyphosate. The corn has already been made available in Brazil and hopes carry to better yields with it in Argentina.
In the United States the protections on the crop protect it from different pests. In the article “DuPont Pioneer releases Optimum Leptra Hybrid” on AGProfessional, in the United States the insects repelled by the modifications of the corn include European and Southwestern corn borers, the corn earworm, and black and western bean cutworms. In the article, penned by the DuPont Pioneer Company, they cite figures of 98% reduction in ear feeding damage using their crops. The plants are also resistant to herbicides, protecting them from more types of poison control.
Some of the traits found in the corn have long been used in other genetically modified plants produced by DuPont, and have long known mechanisms for working. For example, Herculex I, a trait available in Leptra to kill bugs functions by being ingested by larva who feed on the modified plant. The protein binds to receptors in the gut of the larva and causing a series of reactions which ultimately lead to the death of the larva (“Herculex FAQ”).
As with any genetically modified food, of course, there are questions about the effects these different traits may have on the ecology around it. Modified plants that have natural pesticides and that are resistant to herbicides and pesticides have been shown to cause resistant strains of weeds and pest insects to survive and reproduce, causing a drop in the effectiveness of the traits modified in the plants. The article “How pesticides develop” by Michigan State University explained that worldwide more than 500 species of pests have developed a resistance to pesticides due to the growth of resistance among their populations.
Even so, the Clarin Rural article goes on to state that the importance of the Leptra crop is that, since it has so many different resistance traits it makes it easier to rotate the amount of herbicides and pesticides needed for cultivating the crop. In addition, the natural pest defenses the corn has should also reduce the amount of poison needed as it is targets the greatest pests that threaten the growth of corn plants in the regions the crop is planted in. All of these different additions may prove to be fundamental in helping feed a world that is highly defendant on its corn plants on production, if they can get past the stigma of genetic modification and scientific uncertainty.
Clarin. (2016). Argentina approves new GMO corn with four traits for insect, pesticide resistance. Genetic Literacy Poroject.
Dow AgroSciences. (2016). Herculex I FAQ. DowAgro.
DuPont Pioneer. (2013). DuPont Pioneer releases Optimum Leptra hybrid. AGProfessional.
Gut, L., Schilder, A., Isaacs, R., & McManus, P. (2016). How Pesticide Resistance Develops. Michigan State University.
Pioneer. (2016). Optimum Leptra Hybrids. DuPont Pioneer.