In the news...

March 22nd, 2018 /

Researchers at the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources have recently released a report that analyzed 40 years of data – from 1976 to 2016 – on Bt maize to quantify its benefits in the United States, where the genetically modified crop, adopted in 1996, comprises more than 90% of the country’s maize production. According to a summary in ISAAA, the study shows that Bt maize is safe and effective as a strategy for managing the pest corn borer, and decreases the need for spraying. The study also credits Bt maize with reducing damage to nearby crops that also host corn borer, including peppers and green beans. “These benefits have never before been documented and showcase Bt crops as a powerful tool to reduce pest populations regionally thereby benefitting other crops in the agricultural landscape,” says a summary in PhysOrg.

“This study ultimately shows the importance of evaluating GM crops beyond the field that is being planted. These products and the new advances coming down the pipeline have the potential to suppress major pest populations just like Bt corn has,” said Dr. Galen Dively, one of the study’s authors.

“The next steps would to be quantify the potentially 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. The important thing here, however, is to think of Bt crops as one of many tools in an integrated pest management 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 such as the pests developing Bt resistance,” said the study’s other lead author, Dr Dilip Venugopal.

Bt maize is also being trialed in Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique by Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) to seek a solution to the Fall armyworm crisis. In South Africa, 85 percent of the maize grown is Bt maize.

The original paper, published Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may be accessed here.

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