Bt corn debuted in 1996, and by 2009 was planted on nearly 55 million acres in the United States, accounting for nearly 63 percent of the total U.S. corn crop of 87 million acres. But no research groups had previously investigated the long-term impact of such plantings on corn borer populations on a regional scale, nor had there been any assessment of whether the use of the crop provided any sort of collateral benefit to adjacent or nearby fields of non-Bt crops.

The team was led by William Hutchison of the University of Minnesota and included Rick Hellmich, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist at the Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit operated at Ames, Iowa, by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).  ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.  The team gathered 14 years’ worth of corn borer population data from Bt corn plantings and combined it with national corn production figures, including yields, prices and acreage planted. 

In addition to ARS and the University of Minnesota, study participants included researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Pennsylvania State University at State College, the University of Illinois at Urbana, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Iowa State University at Nashua, and industry researchers, among others.