In Wisconsin, 75 percent of the $325 million cumulative economic benefit linked to Bt corn’s pest suppression between 1996-2009 went to non-Bt corn growers. Wisconsin currently has about 3.9 million corn acres, with approximately half in Bt corn.
“This study is the first to estimate the value of area-wide pest suppression from transgenic crops and the subsequent benefit to growers of non-transgenic crops. In this case, the value of the indirect yield benefits for non-Bt corn acres exceeded the net value of direct benefits to Bt corn acres,” says co-author Paul Mitchell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economist who conducted the economic analysis for the study.Bt corn is genetically modified (GM) to contain a protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills insect pests. According to the team’s calculations, the total economic benefit of Bt corn’s pest suppression across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska between 1996-2009 adds up to about $6.9 billion. When the team broke the numbers out by Bt and non-Bt fields, they were initially surprised to find that 62 percent of Bt corn’s economic benefit — about $4.3 billion — went to non-Bt corn fields.
European corn borer moths cannot distinguish between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields, explains University of Minnesota entomologist William Hutchison, the study’s chief author. Once eggs hatch in Bt corn, young borer larvae feed and die within 24 to 48 hours.
Because it is effective at controlling corn borers and other pests, Bt corn has been adopted on about 63 percent of all U.S. corn acres. As a result, corn borer numbers have also declined in neighboring non-Bt fields by 28 percent to 73 percent in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, depending on historical pest abundance and the level of Bt-corn adoption. The study also documents similar declines of the pest in Iowa and Nebraska. This is the first study to show a direct association between Bt corn use and an area-wide reduction in corn borer abundance.
The authors note that their analysis does not consider benefits for other important Midwestern crops affected by European corn borer, such as sweet corn, potatoes and green beans. “Additionally, environmental benefits from corn borer suppression are likely occurring, such as less insecticide use, but these benefits have yet to be documented,” says Hutchinson.
The authors were able to document the suppression of European corn borer in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin because state entomologists have monitored pest populations for more than 45 years in those states. Pest suppression and similar benefits to adopters and non-adopters alike may be occurring as a result of the widespread use of transgenic insect-resistant crops in other parts of the U.S. and the world, but those benefits cannot be documented without adequate data.
Finally, the authors emphasize that sustaining the economic and environmental benefits of Bt corn and other transgenic crops for adopters and non-adopters alike depends on the continued stewardship of these technologies. Farmers, industry and regulators need to remain committed to planting non-Bt corn refuges to minimize the risk that corn borers will develop resistance to Bt corn. The Science study shows that Bt corn is more valuable to society than originally realized, which makes maintaining its effectiveness even more important.
Paul Mitchell | Newswise Science News
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
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Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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