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March 21st, 2018 / Phys.org

University of Maryland researchers have pulled together forty years of data to quantify the effects of Bt field corn, a highly marketed and successful genetically engineered technology, in a novel and large-scale collaborative study. Other studies have demonstrated the benefits of Bt corn or cotton adoption on pest management for pests like the European corn borer or cotton bollworm in corn or cotton itself, but this is the first study to look at the effects on other offsite crops in North America. By tracking European corn borer populations, this study shows significant decreases in adult moth activity, recommended spraying regimens, and overall crop damage in vegetable crops such as sweet corn, 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.

“Safety of Bt corn has been tested extensively and proven, but this study is about effectiveness of Bt corn as a pest management strategy, and particularly benefits for offsite crops or different crops in different areas than the Bt field corn itself,” explains research associate Dr. Dilip Venugopal.

“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,” says Dively. “We are seeing really more than 90 percent suppression of the European corn borer population in our area for these crops, which is incredible.” Read more