Biotech benefits

Bt maize can provide non-chemical pest control and enhance food safety in China

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Abstract or Summary

China is the world’s second-largest maize producer and consumer. In recent years, the invasive fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) has adversely affected maize productivity and compromised food security. To mitigate pest-inflicted food shortages, China’s Government issued biosafety certificates for two genetically modified (GM) Bt maize hybrids, Bt-Cry1Ab DBN9936 and Bt-Cry1Ab/Cry2Aj Ruifeng 125, in 2019. Here, we quantitatively assess the impact of both Bt maize hybrids on pest feeding damage, crop yield and food safety throughout China’s maize belt. Without a need to resort to synthetic insecticides, Bt maize could mitigate lepidopteran pest pressure by 61.9–97.3%, avoid yield loss by 16.4–21.3% (range 11.9– 99.2%) and lower mycotoxin contamination by 85.5–95.5% as compared to the prevailing nonBt hybrids. Yield loss avoidance varied considerably between experimental sites and years, as mediated by on-site infestation pressure and pest identity. For either seed mixtures or block refuge arrangements, pest pressure was kept below established thresholds at 90% Bt maize coverage in Yunnan (where S. frugiperda was the dominant species) and 70% Bt maize coverage in other sites dominated by Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner) and € Ostrinia furnacalis (Guenee). Drawing on experiences from other crop/pest systems, Bt maize in se can provide area-wide pest management and thus, contribute to a progressive phase-down of chemical pesticide use. Hence, when consciously paired with agroecological and biodiversity-based measures, GM insecticidal crops can ensure food and nutrition security, contribute to the sustainable intensification of China’s agriculture and reduce food systems’ environmental footprint.


Bt maize can provide non-chemical pest control and enhance food safety in China (held on an external server, and so may require additional authentication details)

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