US biotech firm Monsanto said it has been given regulatory approval for a new genetically modified corn designed to fight rootworm.

The biotech corn, named YieldGard Rootworm corn, contains a protein from a common soil microbe that targets the larvae of corn rootworm enabling the corn to protect itself from the devastating effects of the pest.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the rootworm pest cost US corn growers around US$1bn each year.

“This is very good news, this would really help our farmers,” Sue Schulte, spokeswoman for Kansas Corn Growers Association, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The new corn will be marketed in time for spring planting in the US. The initial release will focus on areas of eastern Colorado, western Kansas and western Nebraska, where the problems of rootworm are most severe. Monsanto hopes to increase seed production to have supplies for 5-6 million acres by 2005, reported Reuters.