TAG | pesticide
There’s a new superbug in town, a superbug of a different kind. And Monsanto, the biotechnology giant, is the company behind it. It seems that one of Monsanto’s biggest money-makers—Bt corn, is creating superbugs. The majority of non-organic corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified to produce a toxic compound against western corn rootworms—a major corn pest. This corn is well-known as Bt corn, because it contains a gene from the soil microorganisms Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces an insecticide against the corn rootworm.
Genetically modified Bt corn worked so well against the corn rootworm that some farmers began planting it every year, instead of the usual rotation of growing corn one year and soybeans the next—a method that helps reduce pest populations. If there is one thing that farmers should know, it’s that planting the same thing every year is a recipe for disaster (even if it doesn’t seem that way at first).
It turns out the corn rootworms, much like the superbug bacteria infecting humans, are developing a resistance to the Bt toxin that usually destroys the pest. A few farms in Iowa are reporting that the Bt corn no longer kills the corn rootworm, meaning the bugs—now superbugs—have developed resistance to the Bt toxin. First superbugs in our guts, now superbugs on corn, soon superbugs everywhere.
It’s estimated that about one-third of all the corn grown in the U.S. is Monsanto’s Bt corn. Try to buy products using organic corn, or at least non-GM corn, to avoid being part of the human experiment that is the consumption of GM foods in this country. We just don’t know if they’re safe yet, and many studies suggest they’re not.
Yup, you knew it was coming. Or even if you didn’t, you’re probably not surprised to see it. Bedbugs, it seems, are no longer just the stuff of childhood rhymes. From Cincinnati to New York to Atlanta, the tiny critters are chomping their way across the U.S., and experts remain baffled as to what triggered the sudden infestation. They worry, however, that since bedbugs spread so easily, the number of sightings will continue to rise.
So what exactly is a bedbug? They are (and a warning to the squeamish: You may want to stop reading at this point) small, parasitic insects that just happen to prefer human blood as their main source of sustenance. Members of the family Cimicidae, they are commonly referred to as “bedbugs” because, quite simply, that’s where they like to hang out—in beds, mattresses, sheets, and all sorts of snug-as-a-bug nooks and crannies where they can take cover and wait for an unsuspecting meal.
As you may have heard, a typical bedbug is about the size of an apple seed. What you may not have heard, however, is that bedbugs are essentially harmless. As insects go, they’re pretty clean. They don’t transmit any nasty diseases. And most of the time you wouldn’t even know if you were bitten by one. Still, there’s a hidden health threat associated with bedbugs that may come as a surprise to a lot of folks: toxins.
Back in the 40s and 50s the standard response to a bedbug infestation was a nifty little thing called DDT. You know, the synthetic pesticide banned by the EPA for its not-so-pleasant effects on the environment and human health? The problem is, those highly toxic chemicals seem to be the only thing that works on the almighty bedbug (think Superman vs. kryptonite), and despite our best efforts to come up with an environmentally friendly (not to mention human-health friendly) way to send the bloodsucking bugs packing, the end result will almost always involve chemical treatment.
Still, there are preventative measures you can take to keep bedbugs at bay, like taking fewer trips overseas, always checking hotel room bedding and mattresses, and keeping your own home (especially the bedrooms) clean and free of clutter. If you suspect bedbugs are present—common signs are blood/fecal stains on bed linens and tiny brown exoskeletons left behind when bedbugs shed their skin—do a thorough cleaning. Wash and dry all clothes and bedding on high heat, check dresser drawers and other bedbug-friendly spaces, and be sure to vacuum every possible crevice. Then, call in the kryptonite.
And that brings us back to toxins. The government may have banned DDT, but thousands more chemicals moved in to take its place, and today there is just no escaping the reality that no matter where we live our bodies are exposed to countless toxins that can contribute to poor health and disease. The key is to take a proactive stance when it comes to fighting back—one that includes reducing our daily exposure by choosing natural over synthetic products whenever possible, eating organically grown meats and produce, and cleansing regularly with a natural herbal detox program. Small steps, yes, but they can have a big impact—not unlike our tiny friend the bedbug.