In 1996, scientists introduced a type of transgenic maize with built-in protection against pests, such as the European corn borer, using genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that code for proteins toxic to some insects but harmless to humans. Since then, a host of studies have quantified the benefits—in pesticide use, yields, and insect resistance—of so-called Bt maize compared unmodified corn. In a study released this week (March 12) in PNAS, researchers analyze the impact of Bt maize on agriculture overall, finding that it is associated with drops in pest populations and pesticide use, even in nearby plants containing no Bt toxins.
“This is the first paper published showing offsite benefits to other host plants for a pest like the corn borer, which is a significant pest for many other crops like green beans and peppers,” study coauthor Galen Dively, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, says in a press release. Read more