Some recent comments by university specialists suggested that the move to refuge in a bag for many GMO products might not be as effective at preventing the possibility of insect resistance developing than earlier block methods of planting refuge. Monsanto's Robb Fraley says that for their particular product which recently was labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency, Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete, there is no concern whatsoever about insect resistance developing to the product. He's convinced it's an effective way to ensure that resistance does not develop.
Fraley, a vice-president and often referred to as the father of GMOs, has been involved in refuge debates and planning from the beginning. The idea under the 80-20 system with traits with single modes of action was that if a beetle developed resistance, there would be a non-resistant beetle feeding on the 20% normal for it to mate with, producing offspring that weren't resistant.
What SmartStax hybrids do is stretch out the odds to incredible lengths that a resistant insect could emerge, he insists. That's because SmartStax hybrids have three modes of action against corn borers, and two modes of action against below-ground insects, primarily rootworms, he says.
Monsanto's collaboration with Dow AgroSciences made the eight-gene stack and multiple modes of action in SmartStax hybrids possible, notes Matt Kirkpatrick, Corn Traits Product Manger with Monsanto. Bringing in the Herculex modes of action completes the package, he notes.
"Now instead of the odds being one in a million that an insect could develop resistance to a trait, it grows to one in 10 to the 18th power. Suffice it to say that you're more likely to win that lottery than resistance is to occur. Neither are very likely!
To add to his confidence, Fraley says that the launch of Genuity SmartStax isn't the end of the story. Already, as the first RIB Complete hybrids will be released, researchers back in labs in St. Louis and perhaps elsewhere are working on new modes of action for control of both caterpillar and rootworm traits. Should some emergency come up in the future, there will be other genes with new modes of action to fall back on, Fraley says.
Activists predicted in meetings before Farm Progress editors held some 15 years ago that insects would break resistance to new hybrids with traits within two years. Obviously, that prediction didn't come true.