Bugs Becoming Resistant to Corn Toxin

An example of natural selection, but is it evolution?

Summary: Bt corn, one of the nation’s most widely grown crops, is a
genetically engineered plant that makes its own insecticide. Introduced
in 2003, Bt corn allows growers to produce large crops while using fewer
chemicals because the corn naturally produces a toxin  (considered
harmless to humans and livestock) which poisons the western corn
rootworm that  threatens it . Created by the Monsanto Co. by splicing a
gene from a soil organism called
Bacillus thuringiensis into the plant,
the hybrid and similar varieties account for 65% of all U. S. corn acres
and end up in thousands of everyday foods such as cereal, sweeteners
and cooking oil.

But over the last few summers, rootworms have been seen increasingly
feasting on the roots of Bt corn in parts of four states — Iowa, Illinois,
Minnesota and Nebraska. Apparently, rootworms in some Bt cornfields
have “evolved” a resistance to the corn’s formidable defenses. Although
the problem seems to have eased in Minnesota in recent years, it is
hard to detect because winds or wet soil have to topple the corn plants
for the damage to be observed. According to U. of Minnesota
entomologist Kenneth Ostlie, we may be seeing only the tip of the

Scientists say farmers who do not rotate Bt corn with other crops could
be partly to blame. High corn prices may be the reason they don‘t do
this. However, farmers could help by rotating their crops and also by
planting non-BT corn within or next to BT cornfields. That could entice
non-resistant rootworms to mate with resistant rootworms which would
dilute their genes. Another possible help might be to switch between Bt
corn varieties that produce different toxins or multiple toxins. Damaged
fields might also be treated with insecticides to kill the resistant

Seed companies are supposed to cut off farmers who violate
Environmental Protection Agency  planting rules which require growers
to devote 20% of their fields to non-Bt corn. Many farmers apparently
ignore that rule. And Monsanto was recently criticized by EPA for not
doing enough to monitor the resistance problem among rootworm
populations. For their part, Monsanto denies there is conclusive proof
the rootworms really are immune to the toxin, but it says it does take the
situation seriously.

At present, the U.S. food supply is not in any immediate danger due to
the fact the rootworm problem is so isolated. Scientists are concerned
though because, while they fully expected the rootworms to eventually
develop a resistance to the Bt corn toxin, the signs of possible
resistance have emerged sooner than they imagined.

To read the entire article, click on

Comment: This story appears to be another case of natural selection,
but, despite the word “evolved” that popped up in the story, it is
not an
example of Darwinian (amoeba-to-man)  evolution. From time to time
we would do well to remind ourselves of the difference between natural
selection and evolution. Evolutionists still confuse the issue by
suggesting evidence for the former is also evidence for the latter.

Natural selection is sometimes also called “survival of the fittest.” If the
resistant rootworms do have a genetic trait that protects them from the
corn’s toxin, they are indeed better fit and able to survive in the Bt
cornfields than rootworms lacking that trait. Thus, natural selection would
in this case lead to more of the toxin-resistant rootworms.

For Darwinian evolution to have happened to these rootworms though,
some new genetic information would have had to have been introduced
into their genomes. There is no evidence that this happened. The
genetic information already present in some of the rootworms was what
led to their ability to better resist the toxin. Scientists know of no way new
genetic information can naturally enter the genome of any creature. The
resistant rootworms and the non-resistant rootworms are all still
rootworms. No new type of creature has evolved.

The famous peppered-moth experiment of biologist Bernard Kettlewell
also illustrates the difference between natural selection and Darwinian
evolution. Kettlewell’s tests showed that dark-colored moths survived
much better on tree trunks darkened by soot from factories than did
light-colored moths because predator birds could not spot them as
easily. The same was true of light-colored moths surviving better on
light-colored tree trunks.
Some lecturers still point to this example as
evidence for evolution, but it is not, because it is freely admitted that
both light-colored and dark-colored moths existed before factories with
their smoky chimneys were built. Therefore, nothing new had evolved.

We can take comfort in the fact that natural selection is not involved
when it comes to selecting those people who are being saved for eternal
life. If nature did the selecting, we would all be selected out of the
picture, because by nature we are all guilty of sin (Romans 3:23).
Thankfully, God will on the last day do the selecting, and every person
who has repented of his sins and come to faith in Jesus Christ will have
those sins washed away and be selected for eternity in heaven
(1 Corinthians 6:11).

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Why is chewing on apricot pits dangerous?


Nutcracker wrote: I provided several real-world examples of how new
genetic information can be introduced into the genome in last month's
(ironic) thread about censoring evolution. Readers interested in moving
beyond the lie of "evolution cannot produce new information" can read
more there:

The Editor wrote: I may have missed something, but the only
example(s) I found which you provided had to do with gene duplication.
Gene duplication adds no new information but only duplicates it, like
an office copier duplicating a page of information. The article
points out that if gene duplication were a factor in macro-evolution, then
we would expect the number of chromosomes and amount of DNA to
increase as one moves up the Tree of Life. According to this article,
“the all-time champion of genetic multiplication is a super-giant
Epulopiscium fishelsoni is the world’s largest bacterium,”
having 25 times as much DNA as a human cell.

Dr. Bruce Holman wrote: Mutations can move sections of DNA
around or damage other sections, but alter the genetic code only
slightly.  Thanks for the interesting article, Nutcracker, but as the article
points out duplication does not add new information. So where's the
new genetic information that macro-evolution requires?

Nutcracker wrote: Oh, come on, you guys. You're not being honest
with your readers yet again. The evolution of new genetic information
entails more than just gene duplication, and I made that abundantly
clear in the previous thread
http://www.lutheranscience.org/11-12-12.html). The other half of the
mechanism -- which you refused to acknowledge -- is subsequent
mutation of the duplicated gene, which can result in novel function.
Thus, the ancestral function is maintained in the original copy of the
gene, and a new function is effected by the mutant gene duplicate.
Voila: new information -- the mechanism of which has been
demonstrated empirically.

Really, guys. Your refusal to deal honestly with the evidence only
betrays the weakness of your own position.

The Editor wrote: So, we’re back to mutations again, an evolutionist’s
best "friend."  Nutcracker, you continue to refuse to admit that
mutations, when they affect an organism, are overwhelmingly harmful
and cannot help the creature. Even the rare so-called beneficial
mutations seem to usually have a downside, such as the mutation that
has provided a small group of
Ecuadoreans with protection against
cancer and diabetes but which has also stunted their growth. Mutations
are not the answer to your serious problem of explaining how genetics
can aid evolution.

Nutcracker wrote: Actually, Editor, I've admitted many times here
that -- YES! -- mutations are usually harmful (see here, for example:
http://www.lutheranscience.org/11-11-07.html). You're misrepresenting
me on this issue, too. Shame on you.
The reason this isn't a problem is that harmful mutations, by definition,
cause death or decreased fecundity, and are therefore quickly
weeded out of a population. Even if beneficial mutations occur in only
one out of every 1,000,000 individuals, they will still eventually come to
dominate within the population because the harmful mutations are
selected against. So it doesn't matter if beneficial mutations are rare
because natural selection -- which you here agree to -- allows those
beneficial mutations to thrive. This is exactly the same mechanism that
you believe produces variety within so-called "kinds", so I don't see why
you're suddenly taking issue with it.

The real issue here is that I have shown you empirical evidence that
gene duplication and subsequent mutation can and does give rise to
novel functions, but you continue to promote the lie that there is "no
evidence" for the evolution of "new information". In light of this, why
should anyone believe you when you promote the gospel?

The Editor wrote: Nutcracker, I apologize for forgetting that you have
acknowledged the extreme unlikelihood that a mutation could have
beneficial effects, but the problem is that this scientific fact doesn’t
seem to show up very often in your writings as you attempt to defend
the theory of evolution. It is an important fact to remember though in
this discussion.

Another point to remember, which you did not acknowledge in your
comments above, is that so-called beneficial mutations seem to
commonly have significant downsides. For instance, consider the
Ecuadoreans who have experienced a mutation that protects them from
cancer and diabetes (beneficial) but that also has stunted their growth,
a major disadvantage if they ever get into physical confrontations with
normal-sized adults. Also, the island beetles which have undergone a
mutation that robs them of their wings are now less likely to be blown
off the island into the ocean and a sure death sentence (beneficial), but
by now being wingless, they are more vulnerable to crawling predators.

I believe you are overstating the death potential for harmful mutations.
Yes, harmful mutations can lead to an early death for an organism, but
not always and not always immediately. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have
genetic defects being passed on so frequently from one generation to
the next. Having said that, this point does not seem to be relevant in
this discussion since we are talking about living organisms.

To summarize what I believe you are saying is that an organism’s
genome or DNA can gain additional information by undergoing gene
duplication (what are the odds?) which then can be linked to a mutation
(what are the odds?)  which must be a beneficial mutation without a
significant downside (extremely unlikely--perhaps 1 out of a million,
using your figure). But this is far from the end of the story. This unlikely
scenario must be repeated successfully over and over and over again
numerous times with each mutation building upon the previous one for
an organism to evolve into an entirely different type of organism.
Mathematically speaking, it blows one’s mind to think such a thing is
every remotely possible. And why isn’t the landscape littered with tons
of evolution’s failed experiments as evolving creatures have fallen short
of making it to the next step?

I appeal to you again, Nutcracker, to reconsider your strong faith in an
empty theory that holds out no hope for mankind, and instead come
back to biblical Christianity which promises to all followers of Jesus a
wonderful future existence in heaven. You would cause even the
angels in heaven to rejoice (Luke 15:10).

For readers of this discussion who want to learn more about how
mutations commonly cause a loss of information in genes while making
it difficult to envision how useful information can be added to a
genome, you are invited to read the following rather lengthy but fairly
easy-to-understand online article--”
Are Mutations Part of the Engine of

Dr. Bruce Holman wrote: Nutcracker, gene duplication is a mechanism
for diversification within a particular created kind, not for
macroevolutionary "transitioning" to a new kind.  A new trait requires
the prior existence of an unexpressed gene before the duplication
process. The gene duplication process does not create a functioning
gene, and neither do mutations.

PC wrote:  Nutcracker, most young earthers do not believe that natural
selection and MUTATIONS resulted in the variation we see within
kinds.  Creationists be believe the variation within kinds was the result of
natural selection and CREATED genetic variation present in the
ancestors of each kind.  We have a source for the new information.
You have to rely on mutations which, as you admitted, are virtually
always bad.  It would actually be the LOSS and SWAPPING of these
CREATED genes that results in the variation.

These worms are a great example of this.  If farmers would simply leave
a refuge the normal worms outcompete the more "evolved" forms.  Bt
acts by binding to enzymes in the lining of the insects gut then poking
holes in it until the insect dies.  One of the resistant forms have
mutated, ineffective enzymes that, while usuable by the worm, leave the
toxin with no binding site in the gut.  It is a mutation that is only
beneficial when in a Bt field.

Nutcracker wrote: Dr. Holman, gene duplication and subsequent
mutation can and does produce new traits, as shown by the eelpout
paper I've been referring to in the previous thread. I'll link to the press
release again for your edification:
Nothing you've said in any way refutes (or even addresses) the
research in question. Simply denying reality doesn't make it go away.

Nutcracker wrote:  PC, surely you aren't denying that mutations
produce phenotypic variation, even with so-called "kinds" (whatever
those are). Otherwise, how do you account for antibiotic and pesticide
resistance? Would you argue that God created life with built-in
immunities to artificial selection factors that man would not invent until
thousands of years later (according to your own assumed scenario)?

Dr. Bruce Holman wrote: The "new traits" result from the expression
of genes that are already in the genome.  Once again there is no new
genetic information in the genome generated by the mutation.
Although some information may be destroyed no new information is
produced.  Proteins produced through mutations have non-random
amino acid sequences, and could not have been produced by random
nucleic acid sequences.

Nutcracker wrote: Dr. Holman, if I start off with a single gene, copy
it, and alter the copy to produce a different gene with a novel function,
that's "new information" that wasn't there before. Your
semantic games are really silly.

The Editor wrote: Nutcracker, it probably was just a Freudian slip on
your part, but when you write “if I start off with a single gene,” aren’t
you suggesting a belief in intelligent design, your intelligence? Frankly,
you do face a monumental task in convincing open-minded people that
the blind, random processes inherent in the theory of evolution could
create the complex genetic information found in even the simplest of
organisms? It’s like claiming the Encyclopedia Britannica (or even your
short two-sentence remarks above) could be produced by an explosion
in a printing shop. And you can’t appeal to millions of years for
evolution to finally get it right in its trial-and-error experiments because,
as I have previously said, we do not see the evidence in nature of what
must be a multitude of failed experiments over the eons of time.

Nutcracker wrote: Editor, please don't distract from the main point
that there exists good evidence that new information has evolved--
evidence which no one here has addressed. No, it was not a Freudian
slip to say "I..."; it was a personification of nature to make a point. Your
comment about open-mindedness did make me smile, though. If you
admit from the outset that your entire interpretation of the world stems
from a particular, narrow interpretation of the Bible -- and that the facts
must therefore be forced to fit this interpretation -- that's not open-
mindedness; that's closed-mindedness. Have a glance at the statement
of faith from Answers in Genesis:

"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field,
including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the
scriptural record."

If creationists are willing to reject evidence that runs contrary to their
religious preconceptions, that's not open-mindedness.

The Editor wrote: Nutcracker, no, the main point is your blind faith in a
blind, random process that you believe can perform miracles. You will
probably be offended for me to say so, but I shall continue to pray that
somehow you will someday by the grace of God wake up to the total
illogic of your position. Thanks for this discussion.

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When chewed, an apricot pit can release about
1.5 milligrams of cyanide. A lethal dose for an
adult is around 100 milligrams. One 41-year-old
woman was rushed to the hospital after eaten 30
of the pits. The pits sometimes are sold as a
relief for constipation.

Discover (September, 2011)
The opinions expressed
here are those of The
Editor and do not
necessarily represent
the views of the Lutheran
Science Institute. Please
note that links in older
posts may be broken

About Me - Warren Krug
The Editor

Decades ago I attended a
so-called Lutheran
university where I could
have lost my faith. The
science professors promoted
the theory of evolution and
made fun of anybody who
believed in the account of
creation as presented in
the book of Genesis.
Thanks be to God, some
creationist literature and
the Bible soon helped get
me back on the right track.
Ever since then I have
taken an active interest in
the creation/evolution

Background image from NASA