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Ive heard that some organic farmers would really like to be able to use biotech, and actually are appreciative of being able to benefit from a neighboring farms insect resistance, for example it helps their own field have less insects, too. Is that accurate?

A:Expert Answer

It is not surprising that some organic farmers would like to be able to use biotech. There is a push by some academics for biotech to be part of the “green revolution,” including organics. After all, biotech, such as Bt crops, is a form of host-plant resistance, similar to traditional breeding for insect control. Moreover, Bt has been used in agriculture for over 50 years and is widely used in certified organic agriculture. So the scenario stated above, wherein an organic farmer benefits from a neighbor's farm that actively controls insect populations (does not have to be biotech or Bt crops; can be virtually any insect-control measure that reduces insect populations), has merit. Actually, the recipient of "free insect control" does not have to be an organic farmer. It could be any farmer who does not control the same insect species as rigorously as a neighbor. However, there are some caveats to this practice of using "free insect control":

  1. The insect population could be large enough that even if the population were suppressed in a neighbor¹s field, there would still be enough insects to damage neighboring fields.
  2. If the crop to protect has a very low ET (economic threshold‹the level of damage you can tolerate before you initiate some type of control), such as fresh market fruits and vegetables, where only a very small amount of damage can be tolerated, relying on insect population suppression solely by one¹s neighbors would be risky.
Topic: Science and GMO Basics, Seed Choice  2 Comments | Add Comment