Biotech Updates

Western Corn Rootworm Wreaks Havoc in Northern Italy

September 4, 2009

The Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera), one of the most devastating corn pests in the world, is wreaking havoc in Lombardy, Italy's main corn growing region. According to an article published by GMO Safety, the rootworm has already destroyed 30 percent of this year's harvest. From Eastern Europe, where it was first recorded in the 1990s, the rootworm has made its way to Italy, France, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In North America, estimates show that more than 30 million hectares of corn are infested with the rootworm, causing more than USD 1 billion in lost revenue annually.

According to the article, "experts are assuming that the natural spread of the Western corn rootworm can no longer be prevented in Europe, only delayed." Scientists from the continent are working to develop ways of fighting the pest. They are currently looking at a natural predator that can be used to control the pest, albeit the research is still at its early stage. Recently, a team of researchers from University of Neuch√Ętel in Switzerland developed corn plants that resist the dreaded pest by emitting a volatile chemical that summons insect-killing nematodes, the rootworm's natural enemy. However, the corn variety has been genetically modified. It is no secret that there is a wide public opposition to GM crops in Europe. Authorization for GM corn varieties with Diabrotica resistance has been applied for in the EU, but as yet there is no sign of it being approved.

Read the original article at