Areawide suppression of European corn borer with Bt maize reaps savings to non-Bt maize growers.
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.