A new meta-analysis finds that crops modified to produce the Bt protein have no negative effect on soil microbes. Scientists compiled data from 22 different studies performed on Bt crops from around the world. Although the study had some limitations, researchers felt confident concluding that these crops had no significant impact on soil invertebrates.
Why does this matter?
Soil health is a big deal. We’ve always known that to some extent. But we’re really seeing a renewed focus on it. So farmers make decisions based on what’s going to benefit soils most. And having more data that Bt crops don’t kill microorganisms make them an easier choice.
Critics of GMOs have long claimed that Bt crops destroy soil biota and should be avoided. In fact, I even remember a graphic claiming that these crops were killing earthworms on a massive scale. We now have even more evidence that this is false.
Those same critics also claim that switching to organic production would be better for soil health. But any support for that position is further dissolving. This meta-analysis shows that GMOs have a beneficial impact on the environment. Broad-spectrum insecticides (which is a fancy way of saying insecticides that are sprayed over the crops) are more likely to kill good and bad insects. But Bt crops only kill targeted pests. And it doesn’t effect soil organisms.
(On an anectdotal note, our family hasn’t applied insecticides in almost 25 years while using GMO corn.)
I think it’s important for us to discuss the results of these studies when we can. Why? Because that helps reinforce the things we’ve been saying for years. Genetically modified crops are better for farmers, consumers, and the environment.