The caterpillars Plage – new resistant animals and plants in Brazil’s agriculture. A faulty development of genetic engineering and natural solutions

A report by ö from Brazil

The Agricultural Research Authority ‘Embrapa’ enlightens about the new crawler plague caused by genetic modified plants.

Helicoverpa armigera










Technical application:

Bionic application:


Further description:

The caterpillar eats what it gets in it´s face. It can start from soy, goes to corn to cotton or they attacked a bean field. The Brazilian government has allowed for this track Plage more toxic pesticides. In order to curb the scourge.

She appeared in the State of Bahia and Mato Grosso, also in Paraná. Actually, they get everywhere in Brazil, but most of the damage they caused, first in the center of Brazil. That was in the soybean harvest in 2013. Many farmers have lost 30 to 40 percent of their crops, or even more. This was the first attack of Helicoverpa caterpillar.
Dangerous for this track Plage actually is. However, they also pointed to negative developments in Brazilian agriculture, says the agricultural engineer Gabriel Fernandes.

The caterpillar Helicoverpa armigera is a so-called generalist. It eats almost anything. Therefore, their containment is so difficult. She causes billions of losses when they first appeared. She was still unknown a few years ago in Brazil. And then she ate suddenly huge monocultures of soy, corn and cotton! It is interesting that their occurrence could have to do with our genetically modified plants. But this has not yet been investigated.

The insect can withstand 60 different plants from 47 different families, so it is not specialized in a few food sources. About a year after her first massive occurrence in Brazil it shocked the the society again: She ate through fields of genetically modified plants, which should actually be incompatible for them! So far, this species of caterpillar was known in other warm regions of the world and feared. Now they seem to be immune to Brazil not only to pesticides, but also against the genetically modified so-called ‘Bt’ plants. The Bt plants, a gene of Bacillus thuringiensis installed a soil bacterium that produces a toxic protein. The Bt maize was particularly effective against Helicoverpa zea the related caterpillar.


In some fields, these genetically engineered Bt plants had no more success. This means that resistant caterpillars are already on the way!
The immigrant caterpillar has not only a shorter life than in temperate zones due to the tropical heat in Brazil. The female lays more eggs. Where there are 1,200 to 1,500 eggs per female in cool climates, it can be up to 2,000 eggs in the heat of Brazil. The more caterpillars live in a BT field, the more likely that one or the other bead survived lethal meal. If it propagates, they inherited their genes, which makes them resistant to the poison. The resistant insects have advantages. Huge fields belong only to them, warns the agricultural advisers Alcides Bodnar:


We get far more quickly than expected problems with these genetically modified Bt plants. The insects develop resistance faster than expected. We have to keep this in mind here in tropical areas. The dynamics of insect pests is much greater.

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture quickly panicked: it approved fast-track new agricultural poisons, says the agricultural engineer Gabriel Fernandes.

The government allows a new insecticide which has not been previously tested. It is considered highly toxic to human health and the environment alike. The chemical name is emamectin benzoate. If a county estimates the caterpillar plague for very serious, this insecticide may be ordered. This caterpillar has nested one year across the country. She was initially appeared only in the center of Brazil. Already have applied the insecticide in our southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul ten counties. They ate through the many corn and soybean crops.

Stronger poison does not necessarily mean an escape from the caterpillar plague. Even against the stronger insecticide the caterpillar can become resistant.
One solution would be that one invests retreats around the fields with the genetically modified Bt soybean. So arable strips planted with conventional soy or corn. These must be exactly the same time seeded with genetically modified plants. In this non-toxic, so to speak fringe fields, the bead can withdraw what relieves the large fields. People also need to control their fields, as happened in the 2013/2014 season at numerous sites. In the beginning, people were horrified to visit their fields. You prefer to spray insecticides. Sometimes they sputtered mass antidote few caterpillars!


If we continue to inject as much, the natural enemies of the caterpillar will die. And with them the natural enemies of aphids. Here in the neighboring Cambé where I work, squirt five to six times on average. Three times against the caterpillar and two to three times against lice. In the 107 plantations, which we support, we were able to reduce the sprayings to about two per box. I have calculated that the cost of insecticides account for only one percent of the total cost. Where the worms are not counted, the cost of insecticides be thirteen to fourteen percent of the total cost. That’s a lot of money.

We plant in Brazil a total of 30 million hectares of corn and soybeans. These are enormous areas. Each new pesticide therefore has a large penetration. These are huge pressures on the environment and the people in the country. Our health control authority Anvisa was horrified. They criticized the hasty approval of the insecticide and warned of serious effects on human health. Emamectin benzoate is considered to be neurotoxic, as a neurotoxin.


We also set very efficient virus against the caterpillar. It only kills the caterpillars and spare the natural enemies such as lice or bugs. This technique for control of Helicoverpa armigera was developed in Australia. And in the US thus the related caterpillar Helicpverpa zea was pushed back. Even here in Brazil came this virus used. That was 20 years ago. Since we brought this pathogen against the soybean caterpillar on two million acres of land. It is easy to propagate the virus. Crush an infected caterpillar and soak it. The water is poured off, so that the crawler components do not clog the nozzle of the sprayer. Then, the liquid comes to the spray tank and is added to the field. Basically, we inject the blood of the bead with the virus in it.

This simple technique was developed at its Research Institute, says the scientist. Another method uses also specifically introduced into the organism of harmful caterpillar.

It is called physiological method and interferes with the metabolism. There are substances that are tailored to the caterpillar. They look similar to a hormone, causing the caterpillar their skin can not change, or that the caterpillar does not grow.


This is a parasitic wasp, Tricograma pretiossum it in Latin. A caterpillar egg parasite. We are releasing these wasps. Then they smell where the egg of the caterpillar is and lay their own eggs into them. From the wasps hatch and the caterpillar is dead. The wasp does nothing, it’s just a kind of biological pest control. The Podizes, a benign louse, she eats the eggs of the worm. There are a total of six natural enemies. A mushroom is that infects different caterpillars. If insecticides come into the field, destroy beneficial insects.

Large disillusionment is spreading among farmers in Brazil, reported Alcides Bodnar. For many years, they face problems because of the genetically modified soy. This so-called RR, or “Roundup Ready” soybeans sold in Brazil since 2004 by Monsanto. It is immune to the herbicide “Roundup Ready” with its ingredient glyphosate.

The ordered with RR soybean field gets a glyphosate shower. All wild plants die off, survived only the RR soybean plant. The soy conquer the field and thrives. In the first years of cultivation the created in the laboratory plant met all expectations. There were good harvests and less pesticide use. but:
In some regions weeds have become resistant to the herbicide glyphosate now. Since now have her harder poisons. Some people need to chop the stubborn weeds that overgrow the soy fields, even with the hand away. Some farmers do without now on the RR soy and buy again conventional soybean seeds. Resistant wild plants we find not only in Brazil but also in the United States. Here in Brazil, 90 percent of the cultivated soy is genetically modified. But I think the number is declining. After all, why should people buy these seeds and even pay the license fees, if the harvest is bad?

In Brazil, nine different wild plants to glyphosate have already become resistant. Therefore, the soy fields are increasingly getting sprayed with poisonous herbicides. As these many poisons are increasingly ineffective, bring the chemical and seed companies new GM crops on the market. Then you tolerate other poisons. A new invention is a soybean plant which is resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D.


When these plants are allowed, the poison consumption will increase extremely. This 2,4-D herbicide was one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, a defoliant the, which was used in the Vietnam War. It is very harmful, some studies show that it affects our hormonal system is that it is a neurotoxin and also reduces fertility. Unfortunately, our biosecurity Commission is extremely liberal. You never rejected since its founding in 2005 from an application for approval of a genetically modified organism.
In Brazil, more than 40 genetically modified plants are now allowed. It is the world’s land, are used in the most pesticides – about 5 kilograms per person per year. Now many people are affected by the high field poison use, studies show. Since the toxins are often sprayed on the fields by plane in Brazil, especially people in the vicinity of the fields that are affected. Traces of glyphosate were discovered in blood and breast milk of plantation residents.
Herbicides in breast milk, which was shocking and Brazil never before! To withdraw from the responsibility, claiming the agrochemical companies, to blame for the poisoning wear the farmers themselves. The product is safe, it will only be used incorrectly.

We collected throughout Paraná caterpillars and handed them over to study the Advanced Research Projects Agency. 71 percent of the caterpillars died naturally. Of these, 57 percent had parasites, two percent had fungus, bacteria infestation six percent. After 15 to 20 days caterpillar plague, we observed that most caterpillars disappeared by itself.

That in recent years-resistant wild plants are grown up. This development can´t be changed anymore. But resistant insect? In this nightmare suddenly began a rethink. At least in the south of Brazil, where many smaller areas are cultivated. Since winning the idea of ‘integrated pest management’ suddenly a great importance: the nature to take its course and to intervene less. Recommendations as alternative areas, fallow, crop rotation, conservation of natural enemies sound like a manual for organic farming. Even large agribusinesses take some of these recommendations into their folders. Also places them a rethink? Not very likely. As before, the agrochemical companies rely heavily on Brazil. Syngenta for the last annual balance sheet because of the well marketed Emamectinbenzoats showed significant gains. The giant Brazil is an ideal testing ground for new genetically modified plants and expensive pesticides.



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Alcides Bodnar

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