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Crop Biotech Update

Bt Sweet Corn Can Reduce Insecticide Use

October 9, 2013

A new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology suggest that genetically modified (GM) sweet corn is safer for farm workers and better for the environment because it requires fewer pesticide applications than conventional corn. The study analyzed the performance of Bt sweet corn by comparing its rate of infestation and marketability to genetically identical varieties that lacked Bt proteins.

Sweet corn trials were conducted in 2010 and 2011 in New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio, and Georgia, locations that differ in climate, management practices and pest pressure. The authors found that for pest management of the corn earworm, Bt sweet corn consistently performed better than its non-Bt counterparts, even those that were sprayed with conventional insecticides.

Cornell University entomology Professor Anthony Shelton said, "Across multiple states and multiple years, Bt sweet corn performed better and required fewer sprays to meet market standards." He added that the most spectacular examples occurred in New York plots in 2010 when Bt sweet corn had 99 to 100 percent marketable ears without any sprays, while the non-Bt corn which had eight conventional insecticide sprays produced 18 percent marketable ears only. It was not much better than the 6 percent marketable ears produced in the plots that were not sprayed at all.

The authors predict that corn growers could realize increased profits with Bt sweet corn because of lower inputs and higher marketability, while simultaneously conserving populations of beneficial insects that keep damaging pests at bay.

For more about this study, read the news article at: