Among the major genetically engineered (GE) crops commercially grown in 26
countries, maize has the highest number of approved events (single and
stacked traits) and is the second largest crop, after soybean, in terms of
global adoption. Despite this, the risks and benefits of GE maize are still
being debated and concerns about safety remain.
Italian researchers Elisa Pellegrino, Stefano Bedini, Marco Nuti, and Laura
Ercoli published a meta-analysis of the peer-reviewed literature on yield
from 1996 to 2016. The analysis extended to new parameters, including grain
quality, non-target organisms (NTOs) at family level, target organisms (TOs)
and soil biomass decomposition, allowing more robust evaluation of the field
performance of GE maize.
Among the 6,006 publications that were examined by the researchers, only 76
were eligible for the meta-analyses. Their meta-analysis of 21 years of
field data on the agro-environmental impact of GE maize shows the benefits
of GE maize in terms of increases in grain yield and quality, and in
decreases of the target insect Diabrotica spp.
The analysis shows that GE maize has less mycotoxins and did not affect many
beneficial insects. There is modest or no effect on the abundance of
non-target insects, suggesting no substantial effect on insect community
diversity. There is strong evidence that GE maize cultivation reduces
mycotoxin content in maize grain, which leads to increases in income and
quality of produce, and to reductions in human exposure to mycotoxins, thus
reducing health risks.