Forty Years of Data Quantifies Benefits of Bt Corn Adoption Across Different Crops
In a novel and large scale study, researchers from the University of
Maryland (UMD) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) have put
together 40 years of data to quantify the benefits of Bt corn. Previous
studies have shown the benefits of Bt corn adoption on pest management for
pests like corn borer for years, but this is the first study to look at the
effects on other offsite crops in North America.
Bt corn, a genetically modified crop adopted in the United States in 1996,
makes up over 90% of the current corn production in the country. In the
study, Dr. Galen Dively, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Consultant in the
Department of Entomology, and Dr. Dilip Venugopal, UMD Research Associate,
used data from 1976-2016 to look at trends 20 years before and 20 years
after Bt corn adoption. "Safety of Bt corn and other GMOs has been tested
and proven extensively, but this study is about effectiveness of Bt corn as
a pest management strategy, particularly for offsite crops or different
crops in different areas than the Bt corn itself," explains Venugopal.
By controlling the corn borer population, the study shows significant
decreases in recommended spraying regimens, pest populations, and overall
crop damage not just for corn, but also for peppers, green beans, and other
important crops to North American agriculture. These benefits have never
before been documented and showcase Bt corn as a powerful tool to combat
pesticide resistance and advance the agricultural industry.
Venugopal said that the next step would be to "quantify the millions and
millions of dollars in economic benefits we see here in a very concrete way
to show money and time saved on spraying and pest management, crop damage
reduction, as well as consideration of the environmental benefits." He
emphasized that Bt corn should be considered as one of many tools in an IPM
tool box. "The benefits are undeniable, but must always be weighed against
many other options to use a broad range of tools and maximize benefit while
minimizing any potential risks," he added.