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January 28th, 2019 / Alliance for Science, US

Mark Lynas writes:

Growing genetically modified insect-resistant corn in the United States has dramatically reduced insecticide use and created a “halo effect” that also benefits farmers raising non-GM and organic crops, new research shows.

This finding, published by University of Maryland researchers in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, effectively shreds the conventional anti-GMO narrative that GM crops result in more pesticide use and present a threat to organic growers.

In fact, the reverse seems to be the case. The researchers examined the populations of two insect pests — the European corn borer and corn earworm —that attack vegetables such as green beans and peppers as well as field corn, before and after the widespread adoption of genetically modified Bt corn in 1996.

The scientists charted a steep decline in these insect pest populations that corresponded closely with the widespread adoption of Bt corn. This suggested that an area-wide suppression of pest populations, termed the “halo effect,” was benefiting vegetable growers across three mid-Atlantic US states.

This GMO halo effect in turn allowed vegetable growers to dramatically reduce the insecticide sprays they had previously relied on to prevent damage to their crops. For example, the pest pressure declines in New Jersey allowed farmers to report insecticide use reductions of 79 percent in sweet corn and 85 percent in peppers between 1992 and 2016.

However, even if a majority of farmers buy their seeds, they are often of dubious quality or of old, outdated varieties, which do not cope well against increasing drought and heat shocks or emerging diseases. Read more