Biotech Updates

New Study Shows Benefits of Bt Corn to Farmers

October 8, 2010

A team of agricultural scientists, led by William Hutchinson of the University of Minnesota and Rick Hellmich of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported that genetically modified corn with insect resistance coming from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has significant economic benefits even to neighboring farmers planting non-Bt corn varieties. They estimate that farmers from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin received total economic benefits of $7 billion since the commercialization of Bt corn in 1996 up to 2009, with benefits of more than $4 billion for non-Bt corn farmers alone. This collateral benefit of non-Bt farmers is attributed to the suppression of corn borers coming from the long-term plantings of Bt crops. They also emphasized the importance of other strategies such as the use of refuge crops-the planting of non-Bt crops adjacent to fields of Bt crops, providing a refuge to which the pests can retreat.

"Modern agricultural science is playing a critical role in addressing many of the toughest issues facing American agriculture today, including pest management and productivity," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This study provides important information about the benefits of biotechnology by directly examining how area-wide suppression of corn borers using Bt corn can improve yield and grain quality even of non-Bt varieties."

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