Ladybirds, lacewings and spiders benefit from BT crops

Over the past 16 years, vast plantings of transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have helped to control several major insect pests and reduce the need for insecticide sprays. Today,  a report in Nature shows that planting of BT crops is also associated with an increase of ladybirds, lacewings and spiders, which are  natural enemies of certain pests that harm the crop.

On the basis of data collected from 1990 to 2010 at 36 sites in six provinces of northern China, the authors show  a marked increase in abundance in these three arthropods and fewer aphid pests. They also found benefits not only in cotton fields but also in neighbouring maize, peanut and soybean crops. This work extends the knowledge of the beneficial ecological effects of Bt crops on farm ecosystems.. These findings indicate that transgenic crops can promote biological control, and enhance  sustainable management of pest populations.



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Love the selective attention employed to polish the blemished GMO reputation. Ladybirds, lacewings and spiders all benefit from BT crops...rather interesting juxtaposed to Syngenta's recent $100+ million dollar settlement to pay for pesticide clean-up in thousands of municipal water systems...which people drink. But a few insects benefit from BT so all is well with the world according to a GM biotech special interest. Ha.

Of course, this news has nothing to do with Syngenta or that situation. I followed this link from a retweet of @GMKnowBoulder, so this is probably Scott Smith commenting, a model of congeniality.

By Karl Haro von Mogel (not verified) on 13 Jun 2012 #permalink

The findings are not surprising to me. Early in the commercialization of Bt maize, before it became so polarized, many researchers talked about the possibility of effects such as these. It has taken time for these effects to cause measurable changes that can be documented (science can be so slow!). This paper is part of the on-going research documenting the environmental, economic, and social benefits that Bt crops generate for more than just their users. These findings make it more difficult for critics to argue that society should not continue to invest in Bt crops and other transgenic crops as a way for our world to meet the challenge of feeding our growing population in a sustainable manner.

By Paul D. Mitchell (not verified) on 13 Jun 2012 #permalink

As for the $105 million settlement, note that for every dollar the water utilities get, the lawyers who pushed the law suit get 50 cents. Read the fine print of the settlement, the lawyers get $35 million, the water systems $70 million to split among as many as 2,000 eligible systems (that's $35,000 for each system on average if they all join in). I do not see this as a victory for the water systems, but someone else.

By Paul D. Mitchell (not verified) on 13 Jun 2012 #permalink

The syngeta lawsuit was over herbicides that had polluted the drinking water of various municipalities forcing them to filter the water. in military parlance, collateral damage. since contamination of water supplies is going to be a recurring cost to these municipalities they should continue to sue.
funny how you ofter hear that herbicides are safe for human consumption or that they break down quickly in the enviroment.

anyone on the fence regarding transgenic crops needs to understand that it isn't about protecting the environment but fundamentally changing the current legal system regarding intellectual property and strong arming other nations to sign on to treaties enshrining these corrupt laws. follow the money.

The key flaw in this post is the lack of a null hypothesis. Aside from not being soaked with chemical sprayings, ladybugs, lacewings and spiders don't need any help from us. They do fine on their own and have done so for millennia. Why not say, "Man not shooting other guy helps other guy live longer." It's not that Bt is per se bad, it's that the claim is presented so transparently illogically and unscientifically.

By Douglas Watts (not verified) on 18 Jun 2012 #permalink

A solution to the concerns of genetically engineered corn may lie in having the pro biotech folks submit to long term study of the consumption of gmo crops, while publicizing the data. Isn't that simple?

yes it is simple and it long term studies have been done by scientists (not pro biotech or anti biotech, just scientists). See:…

Of course, the consumption of GE crops has no relevance to this particular blog post, which concerns cotton genetically engineered with a protein used by organic farmers for 50 years. In this case the cotton is used for clothing not for eating.