TAG | superbugs
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.
It sounds like a plot summary from the latest sci-fi novel: Super strains of harmful bacteria impervious to even the strongest antibiotics. But recent evidence of an antibiotic-resistant gene originating in India has medical experts on high alert and was a topic of much discussion at a recent American Society for Microbiology conference in Boston.
Three people from the U.S. and two from Canada—all of whom had recently traveled to India—became severely sick as the result of the gene scientists are calling NDM-1, which seems to prefer latching on to bacteria that cause intestinal or urinary tract infections. India is well known for its overpopulation and widespread disease, and in each case the individual had either received emergency medical care while visiting or had gone there for medical treatment.
In recent decades drug-resistant bacteria have become a growing concern, and many experts worry that America’s hygiene obsession and dependence on antibiotics will soon backfire, breeding more and more “superbugs” that don’t respond to normal antibiotic treatment. Essentially, antibiotic resistance happens when our bodies actually become resistant to the effects of a certain antibiotic (or antibiotics) over time because of misuse or overuse of those particular drugs. Widespread use of antibacterial soaps and cleansers also adds to the problem by actually increasing the resistance of certain harmful bacteria.
In addition to practicing good hygiene, experts recommend only taking antibiotics when absolutely necessary, always completing the prescribed dose, and never taking antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Taking a daily probiotic supplement is also recommended to help strengthen the body’s natural defense system, much of which is found in the gut.