GMO Sweet Corn Reduces Insecticide Use
    By News Staff | October 7th 2013 10:15 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Since 1996, corn containing a gene that allows it to create a protein that is toxic to certain insects yet is safe for human consumption has been grown in the United States.

    Most of this genetically modified "Bt corn" has been used for animal feed or processed into corn meal, starch, or other products. Varieties of sweet corn (corn on the cob) have existed since the late 1990s, though relatively few acres have been planted related to the impact of marketing campaigns against it by activist groups. 

    A new study doesn't rehash the well-documented safety issue and instead deals with the environmental aspects. It suggests that Bt sweet corn is better for the environment because it requires fewer pesticide applications than conventional corn.

    The study analyzed the performance of Bt sweet corn, comparing its rate of infestation and marketability to genetically identical varieties that lacked Bt proteins. In 2010 and 2011, sweet corn trials were conducted 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. 

    The corn earworm is arriving earlier and in higher numbers in the northern US where much of the processing and fresh market sweet corn is grown. Photo by Jack Dykinga/USDA ARS Image Gallery

    "Across multiple states and multiple years, Bt sweet corn performed better and required fewer sprays to meet market standards," said Cornell entomology professor Anthony Shelton. "One of the most spectacular examples occurred in New York plots in 2010: the Bt sweet corn had 99 to 100 percent marketable ears without any sprays and, even with eight conventional insecticide sprays, the non-Bt corn had only 18 percent marketable ears. This wasn't much better than the 6 percent marketable ears produced in the plots that received no sprays at all."

    The authors predict that 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.

    "The use of Bt vegetables could significantly reduce the use of conventional insecticides and, in turn, reduce occupational and environmental risks that arise from intensive insecticide use," Shelton said.

    "Our data suggest that using Bt sweet corn will dramatically reduce the use of traditional insecticides," the authors wrote. "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."

    "Multi-State Trials of Bt Sweet Corn Varieties for Control of the Corn Earworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)" will be published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.


    How about organic farming?
    If your solution to farming problems is to kill something, your are doing something wrong. Then there is the issue of ownership. If this is a Monsanto product they won't allow farmers to sell seeds from their harvest or replant without repurchasing the product they just grew as they (Monsanto) inessecence control their product from start to finish. This solution will only work on family farms as small farmers won't have enough control of their product to make it worth the hassle. Also, the article states the obvious solution is organic farming anyway: preserving beneficial insects to keep pests at bay! While this GMO product may be safe for human consumption it is a far cry from a total solution. Keep selling science 2.0 I am sure you will reap the rewards.

    Organic farming can't feed the world - we would have the population capped a long time ago. Agriculture has used the latest science and technology for 10,000 years.
    Keep selling science 2.0 I am sure you will reap the rewards.
    You're jeering at the only large non-corporate-contolled, non-government-controlled, actually independent science site - clearly you don't like actual independent science, you just want places that parrot your preexisting world view. Try Grist or Natural News.
    If your solution to farming problems is to kill something, your are doing something wrong.

    You can't be serious, or you can't be a farmer.

    Killing is what we farmers DO. Farmers kill. We clear away all the plants that are colonizing the plot to be cultivated--that is, we kill them. We kill the pests that wish to eat the crops--either through sprays, organic or conventional, or hand-picking and squashing, if the plot is small enough. We trap out crop-destroyers, such as mice, voles, rats, woodchucks, porcupines, racoons, and deer. We shoot predators, such as fishers, coyotes, foxes.

    When you farm, you enter the Darwinian fray, like it or not.

    This is great fun! Who would have ever thought that "economic entomology" was a science, let alone have its own journal.

    Apologies regarding the corporate shill slight. It was clearly an inaccurate assessment of the values of this site.
    However I still stand by my assessment that it is unwise to introduce poison into the food chain. The law of unintended consequences can really bite one one on the behind when trying to make nature move faster than natural process allow.
    Regarding the latest science in agriculture: After farming became mainstream in ancient Mesopotamia there were hundreds of new varieties of grains introduced in a very short period of time that enabled the human population to expand faster than ever before. No toxins were introduced and the grains were not controlled by a corporation.

    No worries.

    Golden Rice is not controlled by a corporation, nor does it have any way to harm anyone, but it is still demonized by people who do not understand that nothing they eat - not organic or anything else - is in any way the same as it was a hundred years ago. Random mutations due to cosmic rays are happening all of the time and continue to happen - the belief that a precisely controlled change that can't express anything in humans is more dangerous than fickle mother nature is baffling. We have done it forever, just less accurately. To date there hasn't been a single stomachache that can be attributed to a GMO. During the same period that GMOs existed, thousands of people have died and tens of thousands sickened due to organic food.
    Anon2,If you are talking about Bt in your statement, "it is unwise to introduce poison into the food chain" 1996 was way too late for that.  The identical "toxin" has been sprayed on crops for over 50 years and is a mainstay of organic production.  Bt happens to be a naturally occurring toxin for insects which is not at all toxic to mammals or anything else.  Many synthetic options are similarly specific.

    As for your Mesopotamia reference, toxins were certainly introduced.  Most plants make a variety of toxins to protect themselves from pests and we have been selecting for those over the millennia.  Sometimes we take a liking to the toxins (e.g. caffeine and capsaicin) but they are actually far more toxic to us than most modern pesticides.
    Steve Savage
    There is a big difference between a plants natural defense systems, which also generally aide in its reproduction, Tomato plants for example, and introducing a toxin into the part of the plant we eat.
    For example tomato plants have poisonous leaves so grazers leave the plant alone and eat the fruit there by spreading the seeds.
    Caffeine is not really toxic to humans. Any extreme amount can cause severe illness but both manufacturer and consumer must work hard to get that much caffeine in their system. It discourages some insects but attracts other creatures. What does bt attract?
    When toxins are artificially introduced into the part of the plant we eat the question becomes where does all that toxin go? Back into the food web in a far greater concentrations than nature has designed away to deal with, like cane toads in Australia.

    While I understand the intent of your response, you're not helping matters by advancing misleading information regarding GMOs. Golden Rice is certainly a potentially beneficial crop, and it appears that current forms may be capable of providing sufficient beta-carotene, however there are still issues about the role of additional fats in the diet to be effective. In addition, recent studies have also indicated that excessive amounts of beta-carotene may be counter-productive and actually cause a breakdown of Vitamin A. So, while this is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, it isn't quite as simple and error-free as you're portraying it. Researchers are being cautious to avoid making the problem potentially worse by simply introducing more beta-carotene without a better understanding of the limitations and/or risks.

    Your point about cosmic rays is a bit cartoonish,, since clearly you must understand that such random mutations hardly occur with whole fields of crops at a time and are spread over multiple generations, often with the mutations simply fading away. So, it certainly isn't the same thing as being able to introduce a new trait within a single generation across a broad spectrum of plants. While I get your point about mutations and variations having been introduced as a normal part of agricultural development, it is incorrect to present this as if there isn't a substantial difference in how it is done.

    I dont' know where you got your last numbers but I don't see how organic foods has anything to do with the debate except as its framed by the media. Unless you have evidence, your claim of tens of thousands being sickened and thousands dying from organic foods sounds like hyperbole. I've heard the stomachache claim before and it may be a curious soundbite but there's nothing scientific about it. Everyone in the industry knows that one can't adequately test for safety over the range of controlling diets and following individuals for the requisite amount of time. However that almost means that while no guarantees of safety can be made, neither can claims that nothing has ever occurred. That simply isn't known and can't be known unless some medical event were to occur that might draw attention. The fact that nothing of that nature seems to have surfaced and with the data regarding substantial equivalence, one can reasonably conclude that there don't seem to be any harmful effects from GMOs, however anything more is grandstanding without data.

    Dr. Mezzomo and his team from the Department of Genetics and Morphology at the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Brasilia recently performed and published a study done involving testing Bacillus thuringensis toxin (Bt toxin) on swiss albino mice. This toxin is the same one built into Monsanto’s GMO Bt crops such as corn and soy as a pesticide.

    The scientists already knew that Bt toxin was very toxic and potentially deadly at levels above 270 milligrams per kilogram (basically ppm), so they instead tested levels ranging from 27mg/kg, 136mg/kg, and 270mg/kg for one to seven days (each of the Cry toxins were separated out and tested individually to maximize accuracy and total info). It was quite clear right off the bat that these Cry toxins were quite hemotoxic even at the lowest level of 27mg/kg administered only one time and one day as they clearly had damaged the blood, particularly in reference to red blood cells. The quantity and size of the erythrocytes (RBCs) were both significantly reduced, as was the overall levels of hemoglobin for which oxygen to attach to. - See more at: