Research shows Bt sweet corn reduces insecticide use

10/08/2013 10:13:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

sweet cornVicky BoydSweet corn that’s been genetically modified to contain a natural insecticide is better for the environment than conventional sweet corn, according to a recently released study.

Researchers from New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio and Georgia compared Bt sweet corn, which contains a protein from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium, to conventional sweet corn during 2010 and 2011.

The different locations took into account variations in climate and pest pressures.

In the study, they evaluated corn earworm pressures and marketability of genetically identical varieties, one with the Bt protein, one without, according to a news release.

The researchers found that regardless of geography, the Bt varieties outperformed even insecticide-treated conventional varieties.

One of the most dramatic results involved plots in New York.

In 2010, the Bt sweet corn plots yielded 99 percent to 100 percent marketable ears without a single spray, whereas the conventional plots received eight insecticide treatments and had only 18 percent marketable ears. An untreated check had 6 percent marketable ears.

The researchers published their work was published in a recent issue of the “Journal of Entomology.”

"Our data suggest that using Bt sweet corn will dramatically reduce the use of traditional insecticides," the authors said in the release. "Based on the performance of Bt field corn, growers should realize increased profits and there will be less risk to nontarget organisms, including natural enemies that help suppress pest densities."

Read more about the New York results at Cornell University.

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Oregon  |  October, 10, 2013 at 12:21 PM

The problem is: our customers do not want genetically modified sweet corn. If they find out we are selling it, they won't buy it, and probably will boycott us too. Remember what happened to the potato growers?

Montana  |  October, 10, 2013 at 01:27 PM

I am a supporter of GM corn, and used to grow it all the time (BC0805) and several of the earlier versions of the protected types (900's). I quit using them only because the corn earworm infestation was over 50% in the corn, and even the packaging stated it wasn't necessarily protected against corn earworm, but against corn root worm. I have much better results using sprays at about the same cost. And I grew BT corn for about 8 years, since it first came out. It also states that spraying the BT corn is recommended. So I am a little suspect on this reports results. Never had 100% marketable, always had earworms. This sounds more like an ad for GM BT corn. And I am not against GM crops, I endorse them. I am against paying more for seed that doesn't payoff, anywhere near what this article infers.

Kurt Jennet    
Virginia  |  October, 19, 2013 at 12:03 PM

What began well for us went wrong, starting three years ago the earworm infestation went from %5 to %10 and last year %40. Additionally one major customer said no more GM. We dropped it, obviously it was only a matter or time until immunity developed.

John R. French    
Marietta, Georgia  |  November, 15, 2013 at 11:30 PM

Tom, perhaps your customers would want genetically modified sweet corn if it were marketed in a way that emphasizes its benefits, i.e. reducing synthetic pesticide use, thereby avoiding unnecessary degradation of the environment. Many consumers who don't know a thing about agriculture, yet expect to fill their bellies every day with nutritious food, are being misled by fear-mongering that assaults them through media outlets that abuse polemic means to grab attention and boost ratings. A lot of bad publicity about genetically modified organisms got started when Prince Charles and a bevy of Hollywood actors began to hog media attention by slamming genetic research & development. At the time the ruckus started there were too few scientists and better educated public servants who were willing, and eloquent enough, to stand up and defend this technology. In consequence, once the anti-GMO ball got rolling it took on a life of itself, sort of like a quasi-religious concept that everything that is natural is inherently safe (therefore "good"), whereas something that is man-made is unsafe (therefore "evil"). As a consumer, when I go to the grocery store I purposely avoid everything that is labeled organic. I also talk with store managers about my preference for conventionally grown foods, and I inform them that I purposely read labels. Anything that is marketed as not containing GMOs gets put back on the shelf. I DO want GMO sourced foods in my diet, and will do anything I can to promote them, for protection of my family's health and for protection of the environment. As a marketer, you have to ask yourself whether you are committed to lead the crowd, or whether you are more comfortable running from the mob.

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