GM crops confer halo effect to nearby fields

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Genetically modified crops benefit both farmers (by reducing the need for purchasing expensive pesticides) and consumers (by providing crops that studies have shown are safer and healthier than conventional food, as well as cheaper, given the economic benefits to farmers). Now a new study shows a third group gains from GM crops: farmers growing conventional corn next to GM fields.

The study in Nature examined the prevalence of the European corn borer over 14 years in five farm belt states. In 1996 farmers began using Bt GM corn, which produces a toxin deadly to the pest. In GM fields the pests were eradicated, while in neighboring fields their population was reduced by 28 to 78 percent, the study found. The study calculated that over those 14 years, GM corn produced $6.8 billion in economic benefit — taking into account the extra $1.7 billion farmers paid for the seeds — and two-thirds of that went to farmers working conventional fields.

“It’s a wonderful success story,” professor Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist from the University of Arizona who was not part of the research team, told the U.K. Guardian. “It’s a great example of a technology working how it should.”

“Farmers benefit and consumers benefit,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “The corn is at least as delicious as non-GM, and yet you have anti-biotech activists saying the biotech corn is still dangerous, but there’s nothing they can point to. There have been millions and millions of bushels of biotech corn harvested and eaten safely.”