A field study was conducted over 2 yr to determine the effects of transgenic sweet corn containing a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on the diversity and abundance of nontarget arthropods. The Bt hybrid (expressing Cry1Ab endotoxin for lepidopteran control) was compared with near-isogenic non-Bt and Bt hybrids treated with a foliar insecticide and with a near-isogenic non-Bt hybrid without insecticides. Plant inspections, sticky cards, and pitfall traps were used to sample a total of 573,672 arthropods, representing 128 taxonomic groups in 95 families and 18 orders. Overall biodiversity and community-level responses were not significantly affected by the transgenic hybrid. The Bt hybrid also had no significant adverse effects on population densities of specific nontarget herbivores, decomposers, and natural enemies enumerated at the family level during the crop cycle. As expected, the insecticide lambda-cyhalothrin had broad negative impacts on the abundance of many nontarget arthropods. One insecticide application in the Bt plots reduced the overall abundance of the natural enemy community by 21–48%. Five applications in the non-Bt plots reduced natural enemy communities by 33–70%. Nontarget communities affected in the insecticide-treated Bt plots exhibited some recovery, but communities exposed to five applications showed no trends toward recovery during the crop cycle. This study clearly showed that the nontarget effects of Bt transgenic sweet corn on natural enemies and other arthropods were minimal and far less than the community-level disruptions caused by lambda-cyhalothrin.
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