Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cane Toads

Recently I came across a documentary called, CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST.  The Cane Toad, a native species to Central & South America, eliminated the pest problem occurring within the burgeoning Central American and Hawaiian sugar cane farmers in the late 1930’s. At this time Australia, trying to take advantage of a natural resource, was too vying for a sugar cane export. But before they could make real profits they had to remove a major pest, cane beetles. Cane beetle larvae burrow under the roots of the sugar cane and, because of the beetles natural tendency to eat the sugar cane’s roots, render the plant useless, the beetle had to be eliminated. Naturally, of course. (Cane Toad: The Conquest)
Hawaiian sugar cane farmers introduced the cane toads, a native species to Central and South America, to eliminate scarab beetles Hawaii's scarab beetle problem. Cane toads appeared to be a reputable natural solution for Hawaiian farmers so, Australian scientists thought they could do the same in Queensland. Australian scientists were looking for a biological alternative to pesticide. Because a pesticide would eradicate several thousand species of helpful insects, among other native animals of Queensland, Australia, scientists moved forward with their decision to introduce cane toads.(http://australianmuseum.net.au/Cane-Toad)
The cane toad did not stay long in the sugar cane fields. There was not enough to eat. The grub they were suppose to eliminate was buried underground, out of reach from the cane toads. As well as large gaps between canes made the toads easy targets or the many hundreds of predatory birds in Australia. The cane toad moved on from the cane fields and, since it’s introduction in 1935, began it’s journey into the northern part of Australia. Given the cane toads ability to mate and lay eggs (nearly 25,000) at a multitude of environmental conditions, the toad has overwhelmed the native population of reptiles (and other native species which reproduce at dramatically slower rates). Of which the reptiles numbers have seen a significant decline. In 1935 the cane toads were 2011 the cane toad population was estimated at over 2 billion. (http://travel.cnn.com/sydney/visit/cane-toad-invasion-reaches-south-and-north-communities-fight-back-027094)
Of course, times have changed and our scientists do not introduce new species to environments because of the unknown and possible detrimental effects on the set environment. As of now scientists are introducing genetically modified plants to our environment. One strategy for pest control, being experimented with now is   
“Blocking digestive enzymes: some plants defend themselves by producing active agents that block the digestive enzymes used by their predators. Such defense proteins effectively starve herbivorous insects.”
http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/database/plants/76.sugar_cane.html
To me, it is helpful to know GMO’s can be used to eliminate pests before they  become a problem to our food supply.

Authored by Brian Dodson
Sources
Cane Toad: The Conquest (Documentary)
http://australianmuseum.net.au/Cane-Toad

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