Biotech Corn's Positive Externalities


I wonder which side features the non-biotech corn?

Science published yesterday a study which found that growing insect resistant biotech corn provided big economic benefits not just to the farmers that grow it, but also to farmers that grow conventional varieties. How? The abstract explains:

Transgenic maize engineered to express insecticidal proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has become widely adopted in U.S. agriculture. In 2009, Bt maize was planted on more than 22.2 million hectares, constituting 63% of the U.S. crop. Using statistical analysis of per capita growth rate estimates, we found that areawide suppression of the primary pest Ostrinia nubilalis (European corn borer) is associated with Bt maize use. Cumulative benefits over 14 years are an estimated $3.2 billion for maize growers in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, with more than $2.4 billion of this total accruing to non-Bt maize growers. Comparable estimates for Iowa and Nebraska are $3.6 billion in total, with $1.9 billion for non-Bt maize growers. These results affirm theoretical predictions of pest population suppression and highlight economic incentives for growers to maintain non-Bt maize refugia for sustainable insect resistance management.

This beneficial pest reduction effect has also been reported in cotton crops in the U.S. and China. Maybe some day organic growers will stop worrying about a little bit of harmless pollen drift from biotech crops and welcome the pest protection spillover benefits provided by their biotech farmer neighbors.