A group of agricultural scientists report in the journal Science that corn genetically engineered to produce insect-killing proteins isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) provides significant economic benefits even to neighboring farmers who grow non-transgenic varieties of corn.

“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.”

The researchers estimate that farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin received cumulative economic benefits of nearly $7 billion between 1996 and 2009, with benefits of more than $4 billion for non-Bt corn farmers alone.  The scientists estimated that in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, borer populations in adjacent non-Bt fields declined by 28 to 73 percent, with similar reductions recorded in Iowa and Nebraska.